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Ethiopia: The bankrupted fascist Ethiopia’s regime has imposed huge sums of arbitrary payments and demands on small businesses July 15, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” 
― Frédéric Bastiat


TPLF, the unelected and unrepresentative fascist/ terrorist group from Tigray which occupied state power  in Ethiopia has  imposed heavy arbitrary payments called ‘gibri‘ on small business in the country. The group conducts such fraud activities in the name of taxation and federal state.  The bankrupted TPLF is to compensate its income losses from international aid and economic boycotts people imposed on the regime through series of protests (#OromoProtests, #AmharaResistance, #KonsoProtests, #SidamaProtests and resistance in Ogadenia and other parts of the country). Critics claims that  in the last 26 years and so  the TPLF has engaged in war booty, systematically looting resources and transfers to its group members and its rocky homeland, Tigray, Ethiopia’s north.  Click here to read ETHIOPIA: IS TPLF GOVERNING OR EXPANDING IT’S CORRUPTIONS EMPIRE?

And also,  protests against this  new systematic escalation of TPLF’s thievery in the name of taxation is viral on Ethiopia’s related social and independent media.

BreakingNews: Several districts in Oromia & SNNPR fall from dusk to dawn curfew; night public transport stopped

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWYwnfozCMk

Slammed by unexpected tax hikes small business owners in Addis Ababa threatening to close their business. 

 

 

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AS: ETHIOPIA’S GRADUAL JOURNEY TO THE VERGE OF CRISIS September 28, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Addis Standard

“What is being seen right now is that people come out to protest, EPRDF kills. It is trying to govern by the force of arms, but the Ethiopian people are not going to accept that. If things continue this way, we are getting into a very dangerous road. Talking about development while refusing to protect the rights and freedoms of the people, who are the main instruments of development, is both insanity and an embarrassment. Any dictatorial regime can build infrastructure but development, in its essence, is intertwined with the rights and freedoms of the people who benefit from it. Unless EPRDF tries to seek its legitimacy from respecting these rights and freedoms, it is taking the country in a wrong way, to a very dangerous place where there might be carnages.”

ETHIOPIA’S GRADUAL JOURNEY TO THE VERGE OF CRISIS


gebru-asrat

Gebru Asrat

(Addis Standard) — Born in Mekelle, the Capital of the Tigray regional state in the north, Gebru Asrat became one of the early members of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), Ethiopia’s all too powerful member of the governing coalition, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). But Gebru left EPRDF in early 2000 following a major split within TPLF in the wake of the 1998-2000 war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Prior to that Gebru served as the president of the Tigray Regional State from 1991 – 2001 and was one of the top executive members of the TPLF’s politburo as well as the executive member of EPRDF. After leaving EPRDF, Gebru established the opposition Arena Tigray and became its chairman in 2007. Today Arena Tigray is one of the member parties of the larger opposition block, MEDREK.  In 2014, Gebru has published an acclaimed book: “LualawinetEna Democracy Be Ethiopia” (Sovereignty and Democracy in Ethiopia).  Addis Standard’s

Addis Standard – In your 2014 book “Democracy and Sovereignty in Ethiopia” you argued that TPLF’s culture of secrecy had helped its eventual triumph in overthrowing the militarist Derg and most of the party’s followers were indoctrinated with the propaganda of Stalinist determination. What’s the context of that culture, if you will, in light of the current situation in the TPLF-dominated-EPRDF led Ethiopia?

 GebruAsrat – TPLF was initially formed to pursue a political struggle. In order to meet that political goal through military means, it had established an army. This is one of its features. In its early days TPLF was a Marxist Leninist party. An army needs prudence [and] caution; secrets are not needed to be passed to the opposing group or to the enemy. But there is also fierce centralism which comes from the Marxist Leninist ideology.

These two factors [contributed to TPLF’s culture of secrecy] and helped it for the success of the armed struggle. But later on, after the armed struggle came to an end [with victory] TPLF denounced the Marxist Leninist ideology, and its militarist approach was seemingly replaced by a political program. But what TPLF did was to remove the flesh from its Stalinism structure, not the bone and the skeleton.  It kept the skeleton so that it would help it to rule the people of Ethiopia. It did so by using the fundamental principles of centralism; there is the rule of one party, which now they call the dominant party under the guise of revolution ary democracy.  The party kept its culture of secrecy and its centralism principle because they are convenient to rule [with an iron first].All the talks about democracy, justice, equality and the rule of law were eventually abandoned. Although it somehow shifted the gear to Capitalism during the early days of its rule the transition was not clear either. The party didn’t completely abandon the old Marxist Leninist ways; it selected what it needed to rule, to maintain its power and sustained them. Transparency was lost and a highly centralized one party dominated system was established. This secretive nature of the dominant TPLF and its refusal to be open to the public has impacted the democratization process of the country. More than that the features it has brought from the Marxist Leninist ideology like centralism, the concept of a dominant party and revolutionary democracy has eventually hampered the road to democracy and gave way to our reality today in which one party does whatever it wants.

 AS – There are people who argue that TPLF betrayed its initial noble goals, which were its foundations, after it assumed power. But judging from what you just said above (its culture of secrecy and its loyalty to an out-of-date ideology) one could say that the formation of TPLF was essentially flawed from the very beginning. And it seems that the problems we are witnessing today are the manifestations of those flaws. Am I correct?

GA – We have to clarify this in two ways: there are those who argue that TPLF’s noble goals could have only been attained through [the guiding principles of] Marxist Leninist ideology. I was one of those who believed in this. I used to fully believe that other ways of democratization were wrong; that it would not bring equality, liberty and justice. It was a mixture of belief, philosophy and ideology. So people who saw [the party’s last minute conversion to capitalism] felt they were betrayed. Many of the old guard (the old cadres), were carved in this way, so they clearly felt betrayed. On the other hand there were those even in that time who asked [if TPLF] shouldn’t have to be a democratic organization in which a marketplace of ideas were entertained. People who saw things from this perspective felt like the Marxist Leninist ideology, in its essence, could not have brought democracy. These were people who felt betrayed from the very beginning. At the end both of them have lost. There is no democracy; and there was no Marxist Leninist as it was envisioned in the beginning. Those ardent Marxist Leninist ideology supporters were betrayed because at the dawn of victory when the rebel soldiers entered into the capital the ideology was not even to be mentioned. And those who yearned for democracy were also betrayed because we ended up having a system of one dominant party rule.

AS – In chapter two of your book you explained the rocky relationship that often existed between TPLF and other armed groups that were operating in the country during the armed struggle. As someone who has been in the inner circles of the TPLF both during the armed struggle and afterwards, how do you characterize this nature of TPLF as a party vis a vis its relationship with the other sister parties within the governing coalition of EPRDF?

 GA – Yes I have written that TPLF often ended its relationships with other armed groups, which did not identify with it, by force and war. That was during the time of the armed struggle. Now, these four parties that make up the EPRDF are sister parties. More than that they say they have the same program and objective. But even in that case, there is something that must be known:  these parties are not unified and it is not clear why. If they do not have a program difference, if they have similar national visions, if they do not have a principle or ideology difference, as they claim, they should have been one national party [or] should have formed a unity. But this didn’t happen because there is this notion that EPRDF can keep the interests of each party, so it stayed this way for 25 years.

As it is known, of the four parties the one with the highest influence and the most veteran is TPLF. The amount of influence TPLF has, or we should rather say had, on other parties is not a minor one. This is not visible during eventless and peaceful times. But when there is a problem, things start to surface. For example in 2000, when EPRDF as a governing coalition was hit by a serious crisis, the value of these parties began to be measured by their loyalties to the late MelesZenawi, or TPLF. The leaders of some of these parties have even found themselves in dangerous positions.  Senior party members who have a sense of independence were kicked out and were replaced by others. This is to say that during the times of peace, the parties appear to be equal. Gradually this led the umbrella party to become what we can call a one man tyranny. As a result every party or member, who is not loyal, has faced difficulties.

But now there appear to be changes following the death of MelesZenawi, which had a very big tactical implication to EPRDF. The late Meles was a leader who managed to control and rule all the parties as well as the army. After his death all the parties within EPRDF, or rather senior leaders within those parties, have nominated him/herself to be the next Meles, showing visible signs of an increasing distance between the four parties.

AS  – In the past intra-party or intra-region conflicts which are common in federal states like Ethiopia were effectively managed by TPLF/EPDRF. This was attributed to the absence of the role of opposition parties in any of the regions. Since EPRDF governs all the regions, it has found it to be easier to manage potential intra-party or intra-region conflicts. But recent regional squabbles, for example between the Amhara and Tigray regions, seem to be on the rise. These are not simply expressions of discontent by the people of the two regions.  They are rather conflicts between the two parties governing the two regions. What is at the bottom of this? These are two parties under the same umbrella. What does this say about the two parties which are seemingly loyal to the principles of the mother party EPRDF?

GA – We can call these parties one and at the same time four. They are one because they have a common program and a national vision. On the other hand they are parties formed to maintain the interests of their individual regional interests. So this problem, even if it was not as accentuated as now, was seen before, especially in border issues. There were problems about border demarcation between Tigray and Amhara in two particular places; one in Wolkait, specifically in the place called Dansha; the second around Agaw, in the area called Abergede. There were conflicts. At the end of the day what are these parties loyal to? Their own regions or the country in general? It is not clear. Even if we see them as members of one party, they are also four different entities. So they give precedence   for their respective regions. This in itself creates conflicts; here it is expressed in the form of border conflict. It might as well be expressed in a different form. In benefits, in budget, for instance.So it can stem from the regional interest each party is trying to pursue. But essentially the Wolkait situation can be resolved by following the dictates of the Constitution. The same with Addis Abeba and Oromia. They can be solved following the Constitution. But the questions raised by the public go beyond that. They are questions of basic rights and liberties. They are questions of justice. They are questions of governorship. But in EPRDF’s Ethiopia whenever there is a problem, there is a tendency to externalize the sources. They point fingers at others. They are even saying that the public movement we are seeing now is the doing of the Eritrean government, the doings of our enemies from abroad. I think it is pure insanity to assume that millions are bought by the enemy; it is insane to assume that the Eritrean government has the power, in our country, to mobilize all these people. This externalization is also visible in other ways; whenever there is a problem in Oromia, the others see it as the fault line of OPDO. Whenever there is a problem in Amhara, the others point their fingers at ANDM and so on. They do not see it as a national problem. So when big problems, like we are witnessing now, occur, they tend to pull each other. We have seen it in 2000. It was triggered by the Eritrean question and how sovereignty was handled. There are problems within one party, let alone a front of four parties that are not unified.

 

AS – Ethiopia is experiencing frequent protests almost in every corner. With that in mind some prominent veterans say TPLF/EPRDF is at a crossroads and they are calling for a reform from within. What is your take on that? Do you agree that their prescription of reform within the TPLF/EPRDF is what a better Ethiopia needs now?

In my view TPLF was at the crossroads for a long time now. It’s been a long time but now it is very clear. It is failing to even manage the situation in its own backyard. There are demonstrations, for example the one in Embasenet. There is public discontent. There are questions of absence of good governance and democracy, and the presence of rampant corruption. These problems, through time, have penetrated into the party itself. Last year in August and September when the TPLF held its convention, the questions were raised from within the party. Party members were saying that the party was not in the right track. They criticized TPLF for being so weak that it can’t even manage its own region properly let alone impact the wider country. These questions are still alive.  Now the situation is very critical. For an entire year, there have been public gatherings, public meetings by members of civil servants and the society at large. But as [Albert] Einstein said it well it’s insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  They have tried it for more than twenty years without a change. And now we have reached at a tipping point. This problem cannot be solved in a similar way unless there is a fundamental change in the country. So these people, my older comrades, appear to be concerned by this reality. I agree with the analyses they give about the presence of a critical situation in the country.  I see their initiation to do this as a much needed positive move. However, when we come to solutions they subscribed, I must say that, they have said what I have said personally and as a member of Arena Tigray Party, which is also a member of the larger Medrek. We, as a party, have long put what we saw as the solutions to the problems in Ethiopia on several occasions. Fundamental democratic change is needed, much different from what EPRDF is following right now. If there is no democratization in Ethiopia, the problems will keep on escalating and they will put the country in a very dangerous situation. So I agree with some of what they had to say personally. But there are also suggestions that revolutionary democracy is still right. I disagree with that. It is not right. It hasn’t been right. It never worked. It cannot be a means to cultivate democracy. In fact it chokes it to death. And those commentators are saying that they agree with the principles of the developmental state. This is a scheme to put the entire economy in the hands of the state; to put the land, the budget, the country’s wealth in the hands of the state to oppress the others more easily. So I don’t agree. I do not have any problem with the government putting its hand in the economy. But like the way it is now, when the government controls everything, it becomes wrong. But the main thing is they have seen it that the country is in a critical state. And there are some solutions they suggested, like mass public discussions. But I don’t have the naiveté to believe that EPRDF is capable of reforming itself. I don’t believe that. To be fair, these are not the only solutions they suggested. They also recommended the party to have a dialogue with other opposition parties and to open the political space, which I agree with. If EPRDF reforms itself it might be useful for it. However I, as an opposition, and as someone who is a member of a party representing an alternative way,  I say, as long as democracy is not practiced in its entirety, I don’t see a way out of this quagmire for Ethiopia. There will not be justice. A fundamental change is what is needed; not a mending reform.

AS – But do you believe TPLF/EPRDF is capable of reforming itself? The language of reform has been applied for over 15 years. It’s been that long since the late MelesZenawi himself admitted EPRDF was ‘rotten’ inside out. Can TPLF/EPRDF reform itself or is the fear that if it does it might bring in its own demise takes precedence? Which one do you believe in: is it the unwillingness or the incapacity to reform that’s holding it back?

In my view reform can come in two ways; from the forces within or from the outside public. In TPLF/EPRDF when they talk about reform, it is all about keeping the status quobecause on many of the important questions the party falters.  They believe any change must happen over the graves of the party. They say they are ready to debate but they are not open for debate because they are afraid; they work from the assumption that any change on the status quo will be dangerous for them.  They tried it after the split in 2000 and during elections in 2005, but the results became overwhelming. So they used all means to close until they ended up taking a 100 per cent of the parliamentary seats. They have managed to have eight million members in an attempt to control every village. The recent statement by Prime Minister HailemariamDesalegn can be read in this light. For over a year, he has been saying they have problems of all sorts. But recently he resorted to force as a means to relinquish these pubic demands. All he said was they have the military power and they can control the situation forcefully.  He didn’t solicit political legitimacy. He didn’t see democratization as a solution, unless nominally. So far the way TPLF/EPRDF follows is guided by the principle that it controls the army, the police and the intelligence to rule the country with an iron fist. So the pressures witnessed from within are not making TPLF/EPRDF to reform. Now we have to wait and see how the public demands are pressurizing them into having a reform.

AS – Perhaps getting into the bottom of the party’s way of governing the county may help us understand on whether or not applying the language of reform could yield any result. You have, for instance, served as the president of the Tigray Regional state for about ten years. And one of the long standing problems of TPLF/EPRDF is its failure to implement the federal system as stipulated in the constitution. You had a chance to see how exactly that was played out during your presidency. How do you evaluate, for example, the fault lines in the federal-regional nexus? And what’s its contribution to the current crisis?

GA – This is a good question. Constitutionally speaking Ethiopia is a federated country. There are authority levels and limitations between the Federal government and the Regional governments. But the Constitution is not functioning. EPRDF is not practicing the Constitution. The fundamental rights and freedoms stipulated in the constitution are not respected. They are being muzzled. Human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of organization, are to mention few. My opinion is that the government is not operating following the Constitution.  It must be known that EPRDF is a highly centralized party which has and follows its own program outside of the Constitution. There is nothing like revolutionary democracy in the Constitution; it is a liberal constitution. There is no centralism in the Constitution. The Constitution is designed in such a fabulous manner only to appease the public and the wider world. But what is practiced is EPRDF’s party program. The party releases so many regulations and directives and that is what is used to govern the county. Almost all these papers are written to ensure the hegemony of one party. And all the cadres are guided by these papers. The ‘shared-rule’ and ‘self-rule principles of federalism cannot work in a highly centralized party.  Let me make myself an example. [In 2000] the split within TPLF occurred. When the split occurred, I was the President of Tigray Regional government. I was elected by the Tigray people. But I was sacked by the central government.  This means that the people have no right at all. The party ousts, sacks anybody that it wants to. The regional government, the regional entity has no power at all. This didn’t happen only to me. Abate Kisho, the president of the Southern regions was sacked in a similar manner. In Benishangul and Gambella and Somali regional states the leaders are changed frequently by the order from the EPRDF office. This flawed operation of the Federal system is just one example. But it works in all aspects. The justice system suffers from similar fate as is the military. EPRDF’s central hand is stretched in every aspect.

AS – Often time people talk about first 2000 and then 2005 being the turning points or the downward spiral in the country’s democratic experiment. The implications of these assertions are that all was well before 2000. You were the President of a Regional government before the first turning point in 2000. Do you believe that the country was on the right track before that?

GA– There are two things here: on the one hand I was the President of a regional state, on the other I was a member of EPRDF’s central committee as part of TPLF’s Executive Committee. Decisions were always made not by the regional parliament but by the party’s Executive committee. After that happened, the decision was taken to the public. In what I mentioned earlier as democratic centralism, it is not possible to refuse this. Even if it was wrong, you can’t refuse it. Of course there are possibilities to convince the committeeby raising arguments but it was up to the committee, not the public. One of the flaws of the system, I believe, is this. The party members are everywhere. They are in the Federal system. They are in the civil service structure. And they decide based on the instructions that they receive from above, from the party. Not according to what the public demand and need in every aspect. It must be known that the cause of public resentment, especially now, is this. What the people need is one thing, the party’s interest is another. There is a gap. When I look back at what was happening in the party then, there were arguments and dialogues but when it comes to the relationship between the Federal government and regional states, the dominance lies within the party. It makes the decisions.

 

AS – Despite these blatant failure of the ruling party to implement the federalism arrangement many people, including some opposition parties, point their fingers at the ethnic (some call it linguistic) federalism to be the main cause of the problem the country finds itself today. What is your opinion of that? Do you think the federalism arrangement is something that is worth protecting or something to blame for the country’s problems today?

GA – I don’t agree with such accusations. Federalism can be arranged in various ways. Now, what we have here in Ethiopia is an ethnic Federalism arrangement. There can also be a Federal arrangement based on geography. But the main thing is not this; the main thing is whether there is a condition for the pubic to choose these freely. Is there a condition to protect the people’s rights and freedoms? I believe that is the fundamental thing. As long as there is no democracy, there is going to be a problem. I mean, if there is a democratic system, those things can be debated upon. If the people don’t like them, the people can change them. But in the absence of democracy, there can’t even be a debate. So what I say is the source to all problems is lack of democratic practices, rights and freedoms by and for the public. As I said earlier the current federalism is not practiced rightly.  It’s just nominal. Yes, people work in their own languages, they celebrate their cultures. But when it comes to essential decisions, the Federal arrangement is not functioning at all. As long as there is a dominance of one party, federalism, ethnic or geographical, cannot function. I don’t think the root of Ethiopian problems is this arrangement. Problems were there long before the system came in place.  TPLF and OLF and others started armed struggle in the absence of this arrangement. It was the lack of democracy. In fact what I believe is that, the structuring of the current system has lessened ethnic resentments.  What the Ethiopian people, including intellectuals should focus on is the absence or presence of democracy. Rights and freedoms must be respected. Without doing this all the attempts will be futile. What I am saying is that this is not the root cause of all problems the country is facing today. It is the dominance of one party and the lack of basic democratic practices.

AS When you say the dominance of one party, are you saying EPRDF in general or TPLF’s dominance over EPRDF?

 GA – To make it clear, I don’t think EPRDF is a non-existent entity. Their level of power might be different but OPDO is an existing party. ANDM is an existing party. I don’t think those parties are free from taking responsibilities from whatever is happening in the country. I don’t think they have no influence on what is going on. TPLF used to be the most influential one; I doubt if it is like this now. It’s not clear. When I see what is going on and ask if TPLF has the level of influence it used to have, I have [doubts].  But even if TPLF is the most influential party, the other three cannot be exempted from taking the blame.

 AS – What do you mean when you say TPLF might not have the level of influence it once has?  The protests in Oromia throughout the year and quite recently in Amhara have laid bare not only the level of public discontent, but also the deep seated dissatisfactions by the two parties representing the two regions, the OPDO and ANDM against the all too powerful TPLF. Do you agree with that?

 GA – I find it difficult to answer this question with full certainty. However I tried to explain it earlier. Whenever there is a problem, pointing fingers is very common. In my opinion, for the lack of democracy in the country, for the muzzling of rights and freedoms, and for the rampant corruption all member parties of the EPRDF are blameworthy. They participated in the thievery; they have participated in the oppression so they can’t claim innocence. But as I said earlier pointing fingers is very common. TPLF points its fingers at others. It says it has been betrayed as the recent article on Aigaforum claims. It is nothing more than casting blame on others. And the fact is in a union that was not formed in a democratic way, this is inevitable.  Because whenever individuals or groups become stronger the others develop a sentiment of antipathy. When I see TPLF and others, I don’t think the lower level party members think like the leadership. I don’t think the leadership has enough control, influence, on its own members, like it used to have. It’s weak now. Each party has more than a million members. Those members can’t even control what’s going on in oneKebele, or in one Woreda. So when this happens, instead of saying this happens because of us, because of the roads we follow, they say it’s all about failed implementation, even worse, they say it’s because some betrayed us. It’s an inevitable accusation.

AS – What do you think is the best way to address the country’s not only political and economic but also historical crisis without causing a regrettable outcome? What do you see as prescription for redemption, if you will? 

GA– As I see Ethiopia is a country at the verge of crisis. In this regard I agree with what my previous comrades have written about. The crisis is created. In this reality, there are things not just politicians but also the general public must think about. The first one is that in Ethiopia there is lack of one strong guiding vision. So the main thing, I think, is to have a consensus of vision for the country. When I say this I am not denying the fact that each party has its own vision. But it has become a country without a vision which can gather people around. So in order to salvage the country out of this crisis, we must have more dialogues, more ideas. We need ideas, strong ideas that can gather the public together. But since ideas are not enough, strong institutions are needed. Strong parties are needed.  By this I don’t mean dominant party.I think Ethiopia lacks strong national parties that can gather people of all spectrums together. Some of them incline too much to their region. Some others deny the questions of nations and ethnicity; they claim to be national but their influence doesn’t transcend from one region. So I don’t see alternatives in which strong parties with strong vision can be created. We evaluate EPRDF on many parameters and we understand that the party is finding it difficult to bring forth solutions to the problems the country is facing. Or we are saying the party is in crisis. But we must also ask does the alternative certainly has principles and organizations that can bring forth change? We can’t bring in change using the same ideas. What Ethiopia needs is a change of ideas. Besides that there is yet another question that must be raised. Before now, during the Derg and Imperial regimes, there were problems in the country such as lack of democracy, lack of justice, lack of equality. But the country somehow survived these problems and stayed as one. We should be careful that the current situation isn’t any different.  What I see now dominantly, among the radical opposition and EPRDF alike, is the proliferation of racial or ethnic hatred. We can see that in the state owned and affiliated media there is a proliferation of mixing the ruling party with the people. This will lead us to irrevocable conflicts. There is no weak area in this regard, even if it is small. But sadly EPRDF is using it to its advantage. To put it bluntly, TPLF is doing a lot of mobilization saying to the [Tigray] people that chauvinists are going to invade them and they should gather around it. It is trying to make the [Tigray] people believe that all the critiques it is receiving are critiques not against the party but against the [Tigray] people. This is very dangerous. Similarly there are others who mix up the party and the people and spread rumors that the Tigayans are about to do this or that to this or that people. The opposition finds it easy to collect followers by telling people that what’s happening to them is done to them by Tigrayans. The ruling party is doing the same. They have been doing it for quite a long time actually. Every time an election approaches they tell the people in Tigray that chauvinist Amharas are going to engulf them.  And they tell the Amhara that narrow Oromos are coming to destroy them. And for the Oromo they say the chauvinists are going to sabotage them. This is an age old way of the party. And I believe that it has contributed to what is going on now. If religious leaders in this country were not followers and executers of EPRDF’s program who never slide an inch from the party’s dictates, they would have been important in looking for solutions for the country’s problems. The intellectuals and religious leaders must be part of the solution. So what I see as a strategy to get out of this quagmire is there must be an organization with a strong vision which can be an alternative to the EPRDF and which can gather the people of Ethiopia around this vision.

 

AS – Owing to this monumental failure to uphold the rule of law, many people say the ruling party in Ethiopia has forced its relationship with the people of Ethiopia to become violent. Your own party Arena Tigray has been pushed left and right to a point where peaceful politicking has become virtually impossible. This is leading many people to say that the idea of armed struggle is now becoming the last resort to deal with EPRDF. As a party which is denied the means to a peaceful struggle, do you see Arena Tigray responding to EPRDF’s dominance in what many say is the only means EPRDF understands: armed struggle?

 GA – Your question is right. EPRDF is pushing the people, especially the youth, to the extreme. It made me recall a Central Committee member we once had. He raised an argument that with EPRDF in power it’s impossible to have a peaceful struggle. But we said we have to use the political space that is available, as narrow as it can be, and conduct a peaceful struggle. Otherwise the other way is going to unleash calamity. He finally moved to Eritrea to join TIMIHT. This man represents a way of thinking among the youth. And the narrower the space gets, the more the youth are pushed to pick up armed struggle because they see what they see; they believe peaceful struggle is just getting to jail. But I don’t believe in that; I believe the current movements [the protests in various parts of the country] are essentially peaceful. I have a belief that it is possible to force the government to change. I also believe that it is possible to execute policy in a peaceful way.

Right after the election [in 2015] we have three of our members killed including a member of our central committee here in Addis Abeba. Another of our member was poisoned to death and we have about twenty members in jail. Incidents like this make peaceful struggle difficult. But paying the prices requires us to continue the peaceful struggle. And the protests we are seeing now, I count them as part and parcels of peaceful struggle. Other than that I don’t see anything but bloodshed from armed struggle.

AS – Where is EPRDF taking Ethiopia to?

gebru-asrat

 GA – This is a very difficult question. A hard one. In its own book, it is taking the country to development, to wealth, to job creation, to the providing of health services and what have you. That’s what it says. Of course there are some changes in some regards. This is undeniable. Access to health and education is better than what it used to be. There are foreign and domestic investments. But this cannot be a source of legitimacy for a regime. The main thing is: is there democracy? Are the rights and freedoms of people protected? A person who owns a cart feeds the horse that pushes the cart but it doesn’t mean that he gives the horse freedom. And humans are different from horses, from animals. Freedom is the main foundation and element of development. What is being seen right now is that people come out to protest, EPRDF kills. It is trying to govern by the force of arms, but the Ethiopian people are not going to accept that. If things continue this way, we are getting into a very dangerous road. Talking about development while refusing to protect the rights and freedoms of the people, who are the main instruments of development, is both insanity and an embarrassment. Any dictatorial regime can build infrastructure but development, in its essence, is intertwined with the rights and freedoms of the people who benefit from it. Unless EPRDF tries to seek its legitimacy from respecting these rights and freedoms, it is taking the country in a wrong way, to a very dangerous place where there might be carnages.


Click here to read related article: The Conflict between the Ethiopian State and the Oromo People

AS: THE ASCENDANCE OF “DEVELOPMENT FETISHISM” July 10, 2016

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Odaa OromooAddis Standard

 

THE ASCENDANCE OF “DEVELOPMENT FETISHISM”


In its literal definition, the term development is generally understood to mean an intentionally conceived course of action that aims to realize the full potential of a given population. Though previously the notion of planned development was largely confined to communist countries, it now seems to have drawn some attention across the board.

Probably, the reason why the word has attracted attentions outside the communist block was partly due to the phenomenal success registered with US Marshal Plan and “Reverse Course” program to rehabilitate the war-torn Europe and Japan respectively in the aftermath of World War II.

Later on, several attempts have been made to replicate the success of the aforementioned planned development interventions in most developing countries after they won their political independence. Nevertheless, unlike the European and Japanese case, an all-out success with planned development in many of the developing countries, with the exception of a handful of Asian and Latin American countries, had remained until very recently quite a distant dream.

To the contrary, the net outcome of long years of planned development interventions in many of these countries for the most part ended in creating unbridgeable income gap between the rich and the poor, pervasive poverty, environmental degradation, chronic political dictatorship, civil wars, insecurity and instability.

The ever changing economic models and strategies which these countries have opted to on various occasions such as economic growth approach, centrally planned socialist economy, growth and transformation plan, structural-adjustment program, poverty alleviation program, participatory development and all that could well be symptomatic of the crisis of planned development in the past decades.

Of course, in speaking the adoption of a development model, it is worth noticing that there may be several internal and external factors that directly or indirectly impact the choice made by a given country. The competing major international ideological orientations, the fashionable development discourses, the leverage and influence of hegemonic powers, the influence of global financial and economic institutions, bilateral and multilateral diplomatic relationships between and among countries and the political and ideological orientations of the powers that be are to mention but a few.

Be that as it may, in this article I would like to argue about Ethiopia’s adoption of the ‘developmental state’ ideology that can largely be attributed to the incumbent’s political interest to mend legitimacy crisis and carry on with its repressive rule. And for this to happen it has apparently resorted to different political strategies as briefly discussed below.

Mystifying development

One of the biggest lessons learned from the failure of the first ever attempted ‘economic growth’ model that sought only to enhance the national economic wealth of the nation – GDP – was that a true and sustainable development must give due attention to all-round development which includes, among others, the economic, social, moral, intellectual and spiritual needs and demands of the larger population.

Subsequently, this has led to the new concept of an inclusive, participatory and human-centered development that has found wide currency since the 1980s. Such concepts of development also compel the need to make citizens active and conscious actors in a development process that ultimately determines their destiny.

Contrary to this, what is now transpiring in Ethiopia largely looks a full-blown psychological campaign to instill false-consciousness among the people by elevating the notion of development to a mystique and idol stature. The intention behind this clearly lies in making people unconscious and unquestioning actors who would readily submit to everything that comes in the name of development.

Consider the unrelenting media propaganda which scarcely misses mentioning development in the course of the day. Now, each and every government initiation comes wrapped with the tag of development. While a view or an action that aligns with the government would soon receive the honorific title of ‘developmental’, in contrast, any dissenting view or action would quickly be admonished as ‘anti-development’. In short, observing how the term development is used today in Ethiopia, probably one gets the impression that it might have acquired a new meaning which approximates something ‘sacred’.

Just imagine for a moment what a message of a sticker commonly put on the door of a soon-to-be-demolished shop that reads, “Sealed for Development Purpose” implicitly implies. In this connection, it is also worth to recall the occasion some years back when the top religious leaders had appeared on the public media to ‘consecrate’ the “Great Renaissance Dam” whereby they pronounced any non-consenting gesture towards the construction of the dam to be viewed as a kind of blasphemy that deserves some sort of admonition.

When people attempt to make the things that they themselves have created an object of worship, in the Marxist economic discourse, it is often said to be a form of fetishism. Thus, the unrelenting effort that the Ethiopian government has been waging supposedly to mystify and idolize the notion of development could be none other than “development fetishism”.

Development as a pretext

One major reason for instilling the attitude of “development fetishism” among the people seems to lie in the government’s ambition of attaching itself with a rather eye-catching infrastructural and building construction activities now underway in the country irrespective of its effect on the living realities of the ordinary mass and thereby portray itself as an indispensable actor without which Ethiopia’s development would be impossible to think of.

In this regard, it’s worth looking back at the circumstances that led the government to proclaim the status of ‘developmental state’ some few years back. Apparently, the government switched to the idea of ‘developmental state’ following the infamous 2005 election when it lost its credibility with the larger public. Furthermore, it was followed by the time when it kept itself busy with issuing some draconian laws. From this it follows that the declaration of ‘developmental state’ was but a tacit act of openly installing an authoritarian system.

After all, the notion of ‘developmental state’ is often associated either with those Asian countries with a communist political system or naked authoritarian regimes that have clung to power for so long, except Japan.

Evidently, all the messages and actions that now emanate from the ruling party in connection with the upcoming election also well signify how the ruling part is determined to use development as an excuse to cling to power indefinitely without any serious contender. Ironically, all this is not only against the unrelenting rhetoric of democracy and freedom but also in flagrant contradiction to the spirit of the constitution that itself has given birth to.

Fought for the sake of development or justice?

While proclaiming the status of developmental state which is in many ways repressive, the present day rulers seem to have forgotten why in the first place they had fought a bitter war against the former repressive regime, the Dergue. Surely, it was not so much for the sake of primarily economic development as it was for social justice.

As a matter of fact, development – especially that of material and physical – is just one among many other important duties and functions that a just government is required to carry out. This is not to say, however, for poor countries like ours the issue of development is not an imperative one. Yet, to promote development at the expense of justice, the rule of law, freedom and democratic rights, which in fact are crucial for sustainable development, presumably by virtue of being a ‘developmental state’ is very much unbecoming of such a sort of government.
Above all, the essence of a truly democratic government lies in its commitment to advance the freedom and democratic right as well as the welfare and security of its citizens. Indeed, the prime difference between authoritarian and democratic government rests on the fact that in the latter such great questions as development that evidently bears great stake in the life of people are to be decided not by whims and illusions of an individual or a group of tyrannical rulers but by well-informed, rational needs and demands of the larger citizens. Certainly, no thoughtful and rational government would attempt to reduce citizens to be blind worshipers of an idol that is created for political purpose. As the eminent classical sociologist Emile Durkheim had put it, “A healthy political system requires good faith and the avoidance of force and fraud. It requires, in a word, justice.”


The ascendance of “Development Fetishism”

Oromia: Ethiopia: The People Want Their Country Back May 21, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests @sululta, Rd Blocked at 50 locations, 17 Dec. 2015The TPLF Corruption network

 

The People Want Their Country Back

OPINION  By Seid Hassan,   All Africa


Ethiopia is in the grip of a terrible crisis. The recent widespread popular protests must be understood in the context of an atrociously repressive regime and near total capture of the state by ethnic elites, who are now the sole beneficiaries of national resources. The people are bitter. If this mass frustration is channeled into properly organized popular resistance, Ethiopia could see a revolution.

INTRODUCTION

In addition to the senseless killings of protesters by the ruling party targeting the Oromos, the latest video clips and news reports also indicate that the same protests in Oromia region have led to the burning/destruction of properties, foundations, etc. There is an ongoing and raging debate among Ethiopians, residing both in and outside of the country, about this debacle. Some members of the diaspora link (and rightly so in this regard) the burnings/destructions to the innumerable atrocities and endemic corruption committed by the ruling party. Their condoning seems to emanate from the fact that a good portion of the destroyed properties are owned by corrupt elites and foreign companies/individuals with close links to the ruling clique. The owners of these properties and structures are reaping what they have sown, they argue. Folks who echo these sentiments seem to consider riots as antidotes to unending pillaging and a necessary evil to avenge evil doers.

There are others, particularly those who consider themselves as soldiers of the peaceful struggle, which includes those who participated in organizing of the protests, who argue against the burning and destruction of properties. The destructions and burnings, they say, were perpetrated by saboteurs of peaceful struggle and repercussions of the ruling party’s uncalled for brutalities on peaceful protestors. Folks in this camp at times point out mechanisms of regaining ill-gotten assets. The burnings and destructions also seem to have put a large portion of Ethiopians in a quandary and deep dilemma. They really seem to be between a rock and hard place (that is, unable to either condemn or condone the destructions).

As a soldier of non-violent resistance, I also do not condone the burnings/destructions. But contrary to our wishes, I acknowledge and fret the fact that burnings and destructions of greater magnitude may be inevitable. In fact, I saw this debacle coming, long ago. And I have raised this possibility, on several occasions, with friends, such as renowned professors of Ethiopian origin, namely, Minga Negash, Messay Kebede and Berhanu Mengistu, every time we discussed the cunning nature of Ethiopian corruption. As we discussed, it seemed as though our heads have become dizzy and our voices trebled, for the destructions could reach epic proportions. Why do Ethiopians consider the government supported investment structures and properties as not belonging to them but instead as “foreign” assets and even vehicles of large scale displacements, exploitation and oppression?

Now, if you want to understand why the protesters failed to understand that foreign direct investment (FDI) creates wealth (which it does), but instead consider even the “domestically” (political-party and elite-owned) “investments” as alien/foreign owned, why foreign direct investment is considered as a “fancy word for stealing” and as highly exploitative and accessory to evil, etc., and why they even venture for their destructions, I urge you to read on. If you want to understand the nature of Ethiopian corruption, its ramifications – how it has been and continues to irreparably damage the social and institutional fabrics of the country – and most importantly, if you really want to begin thinking of designing strategies for combating corrutpion and forestall potentially devastating destructions, please allow me to elaborate.

This commentary is designed, therefore, to implore you (the reader) to understand the intractable nature of Ethiopian corruption and then think about potential “solutions.” This is because designing strategies and finding “solutions” require a good grasp of the type of corruption found in a specific country, in this case Ethiopia.

STATE CAPTURE: A FORM OF GRAND CORRUPTION AS THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM

As I have shown on several occasions before, what we have been witnessing in Ethiopia is the most [url=file:///G:/Documents/my articles/v]pernicious and intractable[/url] form of corruption known as State Capture. This form of corruption needs to be distinguished from what is known in the corruption literature as Administrative (Bureaucratic) Corruption. The latter is the type of corruption defined and observed in the traditional manner, in almost all countries, save for post-communist (transition) countries. In particular, administrative (bureaucratic) corruption deals with the extent to which the bribe payer uses the existing laws, rules, and regulations to tip the balance in his favor. In general, administrative (bureaucratic) corruption is known to take place at the implementation level of the bureaucracy while the political (grand) corruption takes place at the highest level of political authority. Examples of variants of administrative corruption may include: impeding the implementation of justice; getting involved in the forgery and/or destruction of documents; delaying and/or procrastinating on executing high level official (assigned) duties; using official hours for personal gains; misrepresenting one’s authority; getting involved in partisan favors (nepotism); misusing public property; engaging in absenteeism; getting involved in kickbacks from developmental programs; pay-offs for legislative support, diversion of public resources for private use; overlooking illegal activities; common theft/embezzlement; overpricing, establishing non-existing projects and tax collection and tax assessment frauds, etc.

Even though it may be difficult to completely eradicate it, fortunately, nations could minimize the damage done by administrative (bureaucratic) corruption by ensuring transparency, accountability and openness in governmental activities. This is done, for example, by (a) Establishing independent power centers outside the bureaucracy; (b) Establishing independent electoral boards and developing and allowing competitive party politics; (c) Using the independent media, which in turn enables interest groups, members of civic society, NGOs, etc.; (d) Using the investigative powers of parliament; (e) Setting up of independent anti-corruption boards and commissions; and (f) Using the independent judiciary.

However, what we have been witnessing in Ethiopia is a different kind of corruption known as State Capture, which is known to have manifested itself in transition (formerly socialist) countries. It is a phenomenon in which powerful groups exert their corrupt and undue influence in order to shape the institutions and policies, laws and regulations of the state for their own benefit rather than for the public good.

State capture could arise and be practiced in several ways: it could result from powerful individuals, groups or firms using both non-transparent provisions as well as legitimate and transparent channels to deny competing groups access to state officials and resources. It could also arise from the exploitation of the “unclear boundaries between the political and business interests of state officials” by specific groups and state officials for their mutual benefits at the expense of the society in question (Hellman: 1998:3).

According to Broadman and Recanatini (2001), state capture is harmful corruption that subverts the entire political process designed to ensure that policies and regulations favorable to specific groups and business interests are implemented.

State capture may differ from country to country. In some countries, state capture could clearly be seen as a variant of a corruptive practice known as crony capitalism in which powerful groups, individuals and oligarchs shape and manipulate the formation of new policies – that is, the “rules of the game”- to their own advantage. The phenomenon could be observed whenever state officials pass decrees and/or legislative votes favoring organized business groups, oligarchs or powerful individuals. It could also be observed in huge “concentration of economic and political power” and economic inequality arising from self-interested actors gaining and controlling the state and its resources. The state capture phenomenon could also be observed in the collusive activities of powerful leaders (regional or national), ministers, and legislative and judiciary executives, corporate executives of state institutions/agencies and party-owned companies. In some cases, state capture is a result of weakened legal and political institutions. In other instances, captors purposely weaken the country’s legal and political institutions so that they would be susceptible to capture and exploitation.

It is also manifested in the failure of economic reforms and the stripping of public assets by some powerful individuals or organized groups using the “privatization” process. In some instances, state capture could be observed when organized groups clandestinely create a state within a state (“parallel state”) in order to influence the state structures, including the judiciary, the security apparatus, the military, and even the media. In some countries where state capture has occurred, the line between what is private and what is public, what is official and non-official, what is state and what is market are totally blurred.

As you can observe from the above descriptions, under state capture, a country’s laws, regulations, legalities and ultimately its institutions are part of corrupt transactions. Such corruption features are quite different from the administrative/bureaucratic corruption described above.

In some countries such as Ethiopia (Hassan, 2013) (and to a limited extent, countries such as Uganda and Rwanda), the entire political, economic, legal and military structures are under the control of powerful cliques or ethnically organized groups. Corruption of this type is pernicious because these same organized groups, in collaboration with owners of powerful firms and/or oligarchs, happen to dominate the vital sectors of all institutions (economic, social, legal and military). In some cases, as manifested in countries such as Russia in the 1990s and in some countries in Africa, Ethiopia included, the practice of capture is highly organized and predatory. The captors are known to use, among other things, violence and intimidation. They are known to have created their own monopolies (oligarchies) and cartels in order to monopolize the vital sectors of the economic system while at the same time disabling the ongoing market reforms. In short, this kind of corruption resembles a modern version of organized crime.

COUNTRY SPECIFIC CHARACTERISTICS OF CAPTORS

The corruptive activities of the captors are largely similar but they may differ by country or origin and type of captors. In post-communist countries, Hellman et al (2000:3) make distinctions between private “captor firms (i.e. firms that make private payments to public officials to affect the rules of the game) and influential firms (i.e. firms that have influence on those rules without recourse to private payments to public officials).” The captors in general are the nomenklatura – a group of former managers and bureaucrats of state-owned enterprises under the old Soviet system and other Eastern Bloc nations (estimated to be about 1.5 percent of the population) who were “engaged in ceaseless political maneuvering among themselves while maintaining total power, as a privileged class, over all the others.”

They could also be public officials who “may use their positions to capture enterprises,” or a group of actors such as the members of parliament, the executive, ministers and judiciary acting in unison (the ruling party leaders acting prosecutor, judge, and jury).

While largely similar, state capture in developing countries such as Ethiopia differs from that in post-communist countries in some important ways: For one, unlike their Russian and East European counterparts, the Ethiopian captors do not exclusively belong to the nomenklatura (former higher officials of the communist parties), since a large portion of them were rag tag guerrilla fighters who had marched all the way out from the bushes to seize power and enrich themselves. Secondly, in countries such as Ethiopia, the state capture phenomenon is highly parochial (quasi-feudal and ethnic-based) in nature.

Unfortunately, patronage infested Ethiopian corruption has a strong tendency for both envy and tolerance. It involves envy because corruption assisted riches of elites in one ethnic group irritate other ethnic groups. On the other hand, it is quite possible for tolerance for the vice to emanate from those who have ethnic affiliation with the ruling clique. This tendency is known to have permeated the Kenyan society (Michela Wrong, 2009: “It is Our Turn to Eat.”) The end result is a vicious cycle of corruption, each (largely powerful) ethnic group’s elites taking their turns to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.

One also observes a very strong patron-clientelistic and neo-patrimonialistic nature of corruption in these countries (Ethiopia, in particular).

Thirdly, unlike in some post-communist countries such as Eastern Europe, in which some oligarchs were forced out of political power, the Ethiopian captors continue to hold both political and economic power. The Russian oligarchs made their fortunes through wheeling and dealing and by committing all kinds of economic crimes including buying Russian assets at throw away prices (so did their Ethiopian counter-parts). But, Mr. Putin, who did not like the political meddling of some of them, used his scorched earth tactics to put some of them behind bars and sent others into exile while at the same time stripping off their assets (leaving alone those who did not venture to politically challenge him). Putin’s scorched earth tactics might have averted a rise of a potentially more devastating plutocracy than we observe in Russia today. The captors in Eastern and Central Europe gradually lost their political clout partly due to the desires and efforts of those countries to join the European Union and fulfill the EU’s conditions and the latter’s assistance in fighting and eradicating state capture.

Fourth, state capture in countries such as Ethiopia is unparalleled in that it is a stronger form than one finds elsewhere in that it encompasses the seizure of the political apparatus and the commanding heights of the national economy – the seizure extending to the military, security, foreign policy and judicial system and even the complete control of the media. In Ethiopia, the predatory oligarchs’ appetite for controlling the commanding heights of the country’s economy, misappropriating its resources and accumulating wealth using a network of political power continues unabated, thereby exacerbating the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. Elite predation has led to a virtual criminalization of the state to the extent that mafia-type criminal activities pop up occasionally.

Another peculiar characteristic of state capture in Ethiopia is its high level ethnic nature. Moreover, the lines between what is official and what is private are totally blurred, and the party and the state have become almost indistinguishable. It is for this reason that many are tempted to label the Ethiopian corruptive system as highly kleptocratic. As a result, the captured economy is trapped in a vicious cycle in which any policy reforms designed to improve governance are doomed to fail. There is constant collusion between the powerful groups operating from outside and within the government.

WHAT HAS TRANSPIRED IN ETHIOPIA?

What is being witnessed in Ethiopia is the establishment of shell companies in contravention of the country’s commercial codes, such as establishing sare companies with only 2-5 “shareholders”, most of these “shareholders” being party leaders. As Gennet Mersha explains, the parallel existence of political party-owned businesses has led to (a) “leakage of resources in the form of capital flight, (b) the granting and manipulation of licenses, (c) use of inside information pertaining to privatization, competition for state contracts and bids and awards of project contracts such as road and building and other construction works, (d) lack of competition, and (e) systematic discrimination of businesses and professionals.”
What we have observed is “favouritism and clique building [which] flourished around the privatization boards ([url=file:///C:/Users/shassan/Documents/tdrive as of june 23 2015/corruption/Aid, Development and corruption/follow up and Commentary of Professor Ejigu Demissie of the University of Maryland]Minga Negash[/url]). What the Ethiopian people witnessed were improper handling of the restructuring and privatization process (Mersha: 2010), Young (1998), Vestal (2009), and Negash (2010). What Ethiopians have witnessed is large-scale systemic state capture through the rise of suffocating political-party owned companies (“endowments”), such as EFFORT and the numerous companies subsumed under it.

What we know is the refusal of the members of the ruling clique (TPLF) to return the country’s assets that they looted when they were guerrilla fighters while at the same time occupying the highest branches of government.

What we know is party hacks presiding “over top-level corporate boards of party-owned businesses and major government enterprises including banks” and their funneling of easy bank loans to regional party-owned companies.

What has transpired is the disfranchisement of “other” Ethiopians and the stifling of competition through the awarding of contracts to those connected with the ruling party, such high level nepotism being very high particularly in the construction sector (see, World Bank’s Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia, Chapter 6, for example.)

What we have witnessed on a daily basis, twenty five years and counting, is the currying of favour of these same conglomerates and cadre-owned and favored companies resulting in the distortions of competition and lack of competitive marketplace.

What we have witnessed, much like in countries which were under the influence of the Soviet Union, is the seizure and control of the financial sector by a specific group.

What we are witnessing is suffocation through the use of the so-called new press and anti-terrorism laws.

What we observe in Ethiopia is the passage and adoption of new repressive laws such as the one prohibiting opposition parties from receiving funds from abroad, while at the same time the ruling party benefits immensely from that.

What has developed is a zero-sum mentality and practice, a powerful leadership with deaf ears that is “too rigid, arrogant and disconnected” with high level of patronage.

What Ethiopians have witnessed is the constant attack and dismantling of opposition political parties, the weakening of the country’s institutions – be they independent civil society organizations, unions, or professional organizations – the watering down of the quality of education, constant violation of the rule of law, etc.

What is being observed is the creation of a toothless anti-corruption commission (itself implicated in mushrooming of corruption) to hoodwink donors and the hijacking of anti-corruption efforts – to the extent of using it to attack and imprison political opponents.

Just like in communist Russia and elsewhere, the ruling party of Ethiopia has captured the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and practically all regulatory agencies – all distinguishing caricatures of state capture, the highest form of corruption that is directed toward extracting rents.

THE REPERCUSSIONS

State Capture and (mafia type) criminal oligarchy, accompanied by an unbelievable arrogance and repression has resulted in deep disillusionment, cynicism and polarization in the country. It has resulted in once upon a time rag-tag guerrilla fighters and poor taxi drivers, not known for their ingenuity or something else that is good, becoming extremely wealthy, almost overnight. It has led to the setting ablaze of property, in which local businesses happen to bear the brunt of the destructions. Riots do not take place in a vacuum. The causes are the nauseating greed on the part of the ruling party, the eviction of tens of thousands of people from their ancestral lands and the transfer of these same lands, with little or no compensations, to the ruling party-owned companies, elites and foreigners. The causes of the riots are, no doubt, outright nepotism and organized crime committed by the ruling elites. Corruption riddled land transfers have resulted in the transfer of resources from the people into the hands of a very few. Those whose lands have forcefully been taken away and displaced and those who have been oppressed seem not to be taking the abuse any more.

As an economist, I see the ruling clique’s overreach (of forced displacements, arrogance, insatiable greed and suffocating corruption) having lasting damage. Thanks to the overreaches of the government and criminal activities of party elites, foreign direct investment is now considered a fancy word for deceit and exploitation. Indeed, people-centered and properly compensated urban development projects would have been a win-win for all those involved. Thanks to the rampant land-related corruption, the ruling clique’s dirty tricks have undermined future legitimate development projects. No doubt these overreaches will be big time setbacks to future development.

RESISTANCE TO PREDATORY LAND GRABS

Allow me to elaborate the fraud infested and predatory land grabs which sparked several unrests, a little more. Just like North Korea and China, land belongs to the Ethiopian government, which in turn created a space for a frenzy of uncompensated land grabbing, rent-seeking and nepotism. Using several endless land proclamations as their tools, Ethiopian officials and land grabbers might have copied Chinese practices of forcefully expropriating land. It appears that land grabbers in Ethiopia have failed to understand the problems associated with such a practice. For one, forced evictions have resulted not only in human rights abuses and the violations of the international covenants that China has ratified, but the scheme has contributed to growing income inequality. Ethiopian authoritarian rulers should have known that growing inequalities have consequences.

Secondly, a large portion of the evictions in China was largely done by local officials and against the wishes of the central government. In Ethiopia, both the re-zoning and demolition plans and executions are exclusively done under the directives of central government authorities, contributing to the rising resentments.

Thirdly, both the central and local governments of China were able to create factory jobs which absorbed a significant portion of the evicted peasants, resulting in indirect compensations to the lost properties for those who were displaced. In Ethiopia, local communities hardly get any benefits from the “investments” despite promises of creating jobs and other goodies such as access to electricity and clean water.

Fourthly, contrary to what is largely observed in Ethiopia, it appears that Chinese local authorities and developers compensated evictees even though the compensations were nowhere equal to the market value of the properties.

Fifth, in the Ethiopian case, those who benefit from land-related corruption (which includes forced evictions and demolitions) happen to be at the top echelons of the ruling party.

Sixth, unlike the Chinese, the Ethiopian population is highly divided along ethnic lines, such divisions exacerbated by the policies of the regime itself. And last but not least, unlike the Ethiopian land grabbers, the Chinese authorities never used live ammunitions against protesters whose lands ha been seized. That must be why other ethnic groups, the Oromos, in particular, consider the so-called federal police (repeatedly observed brutally beating students and protesters) and the military as only belonging to and used as a killing paramilitary squad of the TPLF. The Ethiopian people have repeatedly witnessed that the ruling party have never been accountable for the atrocities it committed. Witness the tortures, disappearances, mass arrests and massacres the regime committed in 1995, 2005/6, 2014, and now 2015/16, the genocide committed against the Anuak people in 2003, the killing of university students in 2001, just to name a few.

The Ethiopian people have been traumatized by the endless atrocities. It is these and numerous other atrocities that have forced the people to think that this is not their government. It is the looting of public resources by a few and the extreme corrupt activities which have led the Ethiopian people to think the properties and investment do not belong to them but to a parasitic group. Consequently, it is not hard to imagine corruption that is committed by “others” (conserved by many as if they are invaders) – and in a lot of cases, orchestrated by those who claim to be representing one ethnic group – to be viewed with great envy and anger thereby escalating the polarization. No wonder it results in extreme discontent and riots.

State capture, together with oppression, arrogance and brutality, is leading the country to experience an accelerating socio-politico-economic breakdown and to potentially ethnic/sectarian conflicts – all contributing to the unravelling and possible disintegration of the rotting system. Unfortunately, the collapsing system will have collateral and innocent victims.

“SOLUTIONS”: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

As I indicated above, state capture is anathema to reform. In the Ethiopia today, there is no independent judiciary that can uphold the rule of law since the rule of law gets subverted by top-level officials on a constant basis. There are no checks and balances. All we have is a rubber-stamp “parliament. All we have is a toothless anti-corruption agency, which is saddled with the lack of resources and incompetence. Nearly all independent and privately owned newspapers have been forcefully shuttered and many of journalists sent to jail or exile. These brutal measures have deprived the country of the means to fight rampant corruption.

Civil society organizations have been either decimated or captured. What we have is an executive body which fires auditors when the auditors expose corruption and the disappearance of billions of birr. In today’s Ethiopia, every regulatory agency is captured, to the extent of Mr. Sibant Nega, the founder, architect and now revered figurehead of the TPLF, boldly and unashamedly admitting the obvious: that corruption in Ethiopia is so bad that it has permeated even the religious institutions.

The Ethiopian oligarchy lacks a Vladimir Putin (that is, Meles Zenawi) who could have served as an anti-corruption czar and used his unparalleled power and Machiavellian tactics to trap and quell his distractors and possibly extend the political life of the oligarchy. The paranoid and heavy-handed measures taken against the Oromos by the ruling clique clearly indicate that not only the ruling party has become headless but it also indicates a lack of command and control.

What we are left with is three relatively powerful groups, who could potentially allay the pains inflicted upon the Ethiopian people by rampant corruption – their measures having the potential to extend the political life of the kleptocratic regime. Even though these groups may be able to extend the political life of the regime, they would not, however, save it from eventual collapse since corruption of this magnitude cannot be saved from within. What I am thinking about are (a) Multinational institutions, such as the IMF, World Bank and others; (b) donor nations, particularly the United State and the EU; and (c) pressure from stakeholders who are a part of and have closer ties with the regime, that is, ‘custodians of the status quo’ (Berhanu Mnegistu, 2016-“Mediating Political Space… “).

The first two are holders of strong arms – capable of putting immense pressure on the clique. For one, these institutions and donors know how aid dependent the regime is – so aid dependent just “[like] a patient addicted to pain killers.” The United States and members of the EU, the U.K. in particular, along with the aid institutions, know the “aid” they provide was and still is the source of corruption, be it via illicit financial outflows, used to recruit and pay millions of cadres, used to fund forced villagization or other means. As I have shown elsewhere, donor nations know that part of the seeds of capital for party-owned conglomerates are the “aid” they provided. Should they wish to do so, donor nations can bring the TPLF leaders to their knees by suing them for their misuse of foreign aid and money laundering.

As for the third group, according to Professor Berhanu Mengistu (2016), the effectiveness of the ‘custodians of the status quo’ depends not only on their ability to “convince the narrow stakeholders” that change is in their best interests but also on their ability to direct those changes. One may legitimately ask: Would the custodians of the status quo be able to control their own greed and selfishness when in fact the entire ruling party, top-to-bottom, is so repugnantly corrupt? Well, if they failed to do so, then they will lose all that they have amassed!

So, why did Oromo protesters burn down properties and investment structures located within their own neighborhoods? Well, it is because of the resentment which running deep against overbearing party elites who scoop up lands that don’t belong to them – the grabbed lands making very wealthy almost overnight. All that the people see is wealth following senseless corruption, party affiliation, bloodlines, but not hard work or original access to one’s ancestral land. The protesters are not only pushed out of their ancestral lands but they also do not have jobs, money or even prospects. As the rioters’ selective attack targets indicate, the burnings/destructions and boycotting seem to be directed at those owned by the TPLF and its supporters. Unfortunately, resentment of this kind is also harbored by other ethnic groups. Such practices may indeed be repeated in other regions, even though Ethiopia does not really have lots of resources to burn and destroy.

Unfortunately, the Ethiopian people continue to be traumatized by TPLF’s economic gangsterism and government-led violence. Trauma leads to hopelessness, extreme anger and frustration, to the extent of being self-destructive. The burning of properties, therefore, is a by-product of the traumas that the Oromos have suffered for too long. I have my deep fears that someday such destructiveness may repeat itself in the other regions of the country and possibly in a large scale. Let’s pray and hope that appropriate measures, capable of forestalling the looming dangers will be taken.

Seid Hassan teaches at Murray State University.

THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

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Ethiopia listed among the most corrupt Countries in the world according to Transparency International 2016 Report February 7, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Corruption, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia, Uncategorized.
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Odaa OromooThe TPLF Corruption network

The 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index clearly shows that corruption remains a blight around the world. But 2015 was also a year when people again took to the streets to protest corruption. People across the globe sent a strong signal to those in power: it is time to tackle grand corruption.

 José Ugaz,  Chair, Transparency International


 

Ethiopia is listed among the countries in the world where corruption highly prevails. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Ethiopia ranks 103 out of 168 countries and territories included in this year’s index.This doesn’t come as a surprise to many as Ethiopia has been for two decades under the control of a bunch of corrupt officials who are deafening us with the ‘11% economic growth’ mantra while millions of Ethiopians are starving to death.These corrupt officials are killing, torturing and imprisoning citizens in hundreds and thousands because they challenged their corrupt attitudes and their endless greed for wealth and power.


 

Source: Ethiopia listed among the most corrupt Countries in the world according to Transparency International 2016 Report


 

Related:-

TPLF/EPRDF Ethiopian Regime is a Contra to a Developmental State

https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/tplfeprdf-ethiopian-regime-is-a-contra-to-a-developmental-state/

The Conflict between the Ethiopian State and the Oromo People, by Dr. Alemayehu Kumsa

https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/the-conflict-between-the-ethiopian-state-and-the-oromo-people-by-dr-alemayehu-kumsa/


 

Oromo Protests sustained due to lack of democratic virtues; protests natural reactions to authoritarianism of Ethiopian regime January 24, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests. International Community Alarmed as Ethiopia Crisis Worsens

 

#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in EthiopiaOromoProtests against genocidal TPLF Ethiopia2. 19 June 2015

Oromo Protests sustained due to lack of democratic virtues; protests natural reactions to authoritarianism


 

By Abdurezack Hussein,  Finfinne Tribune,   24 January 2016


 

Outrage has engulfed Ethiopia for a couple of months now. Peaceful protests – against a plan, popularly called the Integrated Master Plan, to expand the capital city borders into the surrounding Oromia National Regional State – are being suppressed by lethal force. Beyond affecting the livelihoods and the cultural makeup of the Oromo residents in the affected region, protesters argue, the Plan to snatch an area from one Federal State by another could amount to a blatant annexation. Thanks to the phony federal structure, the Oromia National Regional State, that was supposed to guard its borders and defend the protesters, is regrettably failing on both accounts. According to the Human Rights Watch, at least 140 innocent lives have since been gunned down. Activists on the ground, however, raise the death toll even higher.

The escalation of the crises and protesters’ defiance have unusually forced the government, which had vowed to implement the Plan at any cost, to retract the Plan. For the protesters, though, the government’s latest action is too little to rejoice and too late to embrace. Protesters’ discontent seems to have gone beyond the Master Plan into the working of the Federal State of Oromia itself. The sustained political disenfranchisement and the lack of real representation in the decision-making hierarchy have produced a magma of uneasiness with the system that has waited so long to explode. As the protesters are vowing to continue the protests, and more political actors and the international community are slowly joining and acknowledging their cause, the coming days and weeks will increasingly put the autocratic Ethiopian government in a difficult position.

Had it not been for the lack of democracy in Ethiopia, such opposition to the government’s policies could have been easily defeated either in the court or at the ballot box. The tragic failure of the system to hold the government accountable for its polices in either way has ultimately compelled the public that the responsibility – to safeguard its own rights and claim these hijacked democratic virtues at any cost – rests on the people’s protests.

Doing Development in an Autocratic Way

The incursion into a vast swath of land around the congested capital city will produce more development and modernization, the Ethiopian government contends. It, accordingly, accuses protesters of being traitors and obstacles in the so-called “miraculous double-digit growth.” Under the New Master Plan, the predominantly agrarian adjacent lands are expected to be replaced by alternatives usages that are presumably more valuable in terms of their economic values. It envisages creating new infrastructures, new real estates, new industries and new dwellers. It does not matter whether the Plan causes serious law abridgments, or is hugely unpopular, as far as it is adding to the GDP [Growth and Transformation Plan] and keeps alive the double-digit narrative. Public opinions and laws are, at best, second to development, and at worst, they are completely neglected. This is what is called doing development in an autocratic way.

At the heart of an autocratic way of building an economy, there exists a blatant disregard of accountability. In a working democracy, governments and policymakers are accountable to the law and the public. Any development plan, however economically sound it might be, is prone to cancellation, if it negates any law of the country and its Constitution. Autocrats, on the other hand, keep themselves above the law and dare abridge any verse of the Constitution. Besides, such a regime lacks an independent judiciary to keep the working of the government in check. Dictators, therefore, are in a perfect position to plan and execute any development plan without fearing any intervention by the judiciary.

The Integrated Master Plan is an epitome of an autocratic way of doing development. Despite the fact that it plans to stretch the borders of the capital city into the neighboring Oromia National Regional State’s land, which is potentially tantamount to annexation in a federal arrangement, neither the judiciary nor the House of Federation has toddled to intervene in the matter. It is the land of autocrats where accountability before the law is at its lowest.

Another route to bring accountability within the policymakers’ circles and to governments is via elections. Elections provide mechanisms to reward, or to punish, politicians and their policies. Parties with popular policies are elected into office; economic policies and projects are no exceptions. While in office, incumbent governments plan and execute development plans that are feasible in economic terms, sound in terms of country’s laws and popular in the eyes of their electorates. Free, fair and transparent elections constrain politicians from pursuing risky and unpopular policies. The recurrent massive turnovers among governments that follow austerity measures can be a good example in this respect.

In no-man lands of electoral autocrats, however, elections are, at best, mere periodic anniversaries, or at worst, eves of mass imprisonments of vocal dissidents. The very role of accountability-before-the-public that elections guarantee is impossible in dictatorships. However unpopular the policies they plan and execute might be, they can go away without facing any punishment by the public during elections. When elections cease to serve their natural purpose of voting politicians and their policies, plans – as unpopular as the Integrated Master Plan, can irresponsibly be planed and implemented without any accountability at the ballot box.

Protests as Working Constraints

Political institutions, such as legislature, political parties and elections ,are eminent constraints on governments. The judiciary, with its mighty power, keeps government’s actions in check. These are the virtues of democracy that nations under the auspices of autocracy are devoid of. Ethiopia has never been short of such regimes for very long. The current government has led the country for a quarter of a century with an iron fist. Any opposition to its rule and policies have been met with decisive force and merciless crackdowns.

The absence of democratic virtues like independent judiciary and elections as a mechanism to voice citizens’ approval or rejection of the government and its polices in Ethiopia has expectedly created enormous frustrations. Sustained public protests for the past few years by Ethiopian Muslims and the current Oromo protests are results of such hopelessness in the system and the institutions it has built.

The huge protests all across the Oromia National Regional State against the Master Plan for the past few months has claimed hundreds lives. Injuries and incarcerations are in thousands. Reports of torture and extra-judiciary killings are everyday news. Had the judiciary been to its honor and sound elections were in place, projects as unlawful and unpopular as the Master Plan would have been defeated in the court or at the ballot box. When both institutions fail, sadly, the people have to either chose between eviction and disenfranchisement, or bravely confront the implementation of the Plan with protests. Oromos have preferred the later and have audaciously faced one of the most brutal autocratic states in the world.

The sustained protests have lately compelled the government, which has got away with many actions without any public approval for past twenty five years, to rescind the Master Plan. It has, for now, dissipated the ambitions of the leeching pro-government business elites. What would have been easily defeated in a democratic polity has sucked the blood of many in the autocratic Ethiopia. The fallen and the injured have paid with their blood to reclaim deserved democratic virtues. They have won back what an independent judiciary or a fair election would otherwise have secured at ease. Protests have served as constraints on the government – which has abusively compromised the foremost constraints to its power: the judiciary and periodic elections.

Unfortunate enough, when protesters reclaim their rights after months of defiant protests and force their autocratic rulers to back down on their nightmare, another feature of an autocratic regime could dangerously spoil their jubilation: the question of credibility. In the absence of any institutional mechanism to assure accountability of the government, there is no way one can guarantee the government would not renege on its promises. As Mancur Olson (1991, p. 153) argued “If he (the autocrat) runs the society, there is no one who can force him to keep his commitments.” Repeated experiences in the past, and the very nature of the regime type, further strengthens the prospect of a possible change of mind sometime in the near future. More importantly, the amount of rents the political and business elites would have collected from such massive land grabs will inevitably test their commitment to the rhetorical promise they have lately made.

Both at the Crossroads

It appears that both the protesters and the government are at the crossroads. For the protesters, they have managed to force the government to scrap the Master Plan that has been the immediate cause of the protests. It is now the right time to decide whether to believe the government, which has been the sole architect of the Master Plan, and the subsequent brutality against protesters, on its word, or escalate their struggle to address the lingering deep-rooted sense of Oromo disenfranchisement and confront the beleaguered Ethiopian government to the end. Putting it differently, the struggle to reclaim democratic virtues has to make a shift to reclaiming democracy itself. While it is difficult to sleep safe believing the word of an autocrat, it also requires massive amounts of energy, coordination, solidarity and determination to make the second choice.

For the Ethiopian government, the current protests seem to indicate that the sun is slowly setting in their autocratic empire. History and the nature of the political regime the government is politicking are not on their side in terms of citizens’ confidence on their word. Incumbent politicians have to either go by their promise and give a strong signal to their credibility, or face the consequences of the ensuing protests and the public outrage. The coming days, weeks and months will tell which ways both the protesters and the government will take. Either way, the current protests, and actors involved from both sides, have already made it to the history of a country that has never witnessed a government of the people, for the people and by the people.



 

 

TPLF/EPRDF Ethiopian Regime is a Contra to a Developmental State January 12, 2016

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Odaa OromooThe TPLF Corruption network

 

TPLF/EPRDF Regime a Contra to a Developmental State

By Dr Barii Ayano, Economic Thinker

 

Introduction

One of the catchy phrases the TPLF/EPRDF regime leaders and their cadres often use to describe the regime is “limatawi mengist” or “developmental state”. However, the TPLF/EPRDF regime is not pursuing a development state economic model since the regime’s economic system does not meet standard features of a development state. Actually, the regime’s economy and its rhetoric are in contradiction with the conventional features of a developmental state enshrined in nation building and economic nationalism that unify a nation. There is difference between state-led developmental state and state-controlled and state-owned economy of TPLF-led regime. The regime’s rulers and bureaucrats have predatory and kleptocratic motives, which are fed by structural and institutional corruptions and rentseeking. Unlike a developmental state, which builds foundations for private entrepreneurship and innovative enterprises, Ethiopia’s monetized economy is dominated by interest groups affiliated or aligned with the regime such as REST. The regime marginalized and displaced most of the traditional entrepreneurial and business class. The foundation of Ethiopia’s economy under the current regime is not entrepreneurial or business skill but alliance with TPLF leaders. The leaders of the TPLF/EPRDF regime and interest groups aligned with them designed get-rich-quick schemes based on land grabs and cronyism, which have nothing to do with economic efficiency, entrepreneurship, innovative value adding, business acumens, etc. of a developmental state. Therefore, the regime’s leaders and their cadres use of the phrase ‘developmental state’ to the describe economy is similar to the regime’s leaders and their cadres use of the word ‘democracy’ to describe the current political system. It is also important to note that a developmental state is not always synonymous with authoritarianism and dictatorship, but many Asian states have been authoritarian to a degree, particularly at the earlier stages of development.

What is a Developmental State?

A developmental state is a term coined by Chalmers Johnson that is used to describe states which follow a particular model of economic planning and management. It was initially used to describe post World War II Japan and its rapid modernization and economic growth. It is the developmental state of Japan that led to innovative creation of world renowned Japanese brands such as Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nisan, Sony, Toshiba, etc. Other examples often cited as developmental states include Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Indonesia. In terms of an economic jargon, a developmental state is a state where the government is intimately involved in the macro and micro economic planning in order to grow the economy whilst attempting to deploy its resources in developing better lives for the people. Developmental states invest and mobilize the majority of capital into the most promising sector of an economy that will have maximum spillover effect for the society and reduce the dislocations caused by shifts in investment and profits from old to new sectors. Such state plays the social engineering role to restructure the national economic system for promoting long-term (industrial) development. Thus it is based on combinations of nurturing innovative private enterprises as the key owners and the positive role of government via an ambition use of the interventionist power of the state and its fiscal and monetary policy to guide investment in a way that promotes economic solidarity of different interest groups based vision for national economy and its growth.

Key Features of a Developmental State

In order to understand the concept of a developmental state, it is important to highlight some of the characteristics of a developmental state. Although dictators pursuing developmental states generally believe that they will attain state legitimacy through delivery of services to citizens rather than through the ballot, they use economic nationalism to unify the nation based on a collective goal of economic development. Developmental states hugely invest in quality education, especially in technical fields in both domestic universities and overseas scholarship. This leads to the emergence of bureaucratic layers populated by extremely educated people, who have sufficient tools of analysis to be able to take economic leadership initiatives, based on sound scientific basis, at diverse levels of decision making within the government structure. Moreover, developmental states have been observed to be able to efficiently distribute and allocate resources and, therefore, invest optimally in critical areas that are the basis of growth such as education, research and development, infrastructure, etc. It is this ideology-structure nexus that distinguishes developmental states from other forms of states. Let me elaborate the ideology-structure nexus of a developmental state in two areas.

1. Economic Nationalism as an Ideology

The successful developmental states are based promoting economic nationalism as a unifying ideology. The state promotes economic nationalism as an essential keystone, which unifies different interest groups. A developmental state conceives economic development as its national mission and the mission of the country at large. Although a development state establishes its principle of legitimacy as its ability to promote sustained development, it does not alienate experts of diverse interest groups and political views in participating in economic nationalism since real development requires expertise for steady high rates of economic growth and structural change in the productive system, both domestically and in its comparative competition in the international economy. In spite of dictatorial development states control of political sphere, there is economic freedom where experts of diverse professions are able to establish an “ideological hegemony” based on economic nationalism to which key actors in the nation adhere voluntarily in order to contribute towards economic development for the benefits of their country. The main force behind the developmentalist ideology has usually been economic nationalism, inducing nations to seek to “catch up” with countries considered as more developed. It is essential to stress the ideological underpinnings of state policies knit together the ruling class and the ruled class of a country with economic nationalism as a unifying factor. In other words, the centrality of economic nationalism as an alternative ideology points to de-politicized national quest for economic development, which is driven by professional expertise with the help and support of a developmental state. The economy falls under some kind of technocratic governance of the best and the brightest a country can offer for economic development to carry out state policies that are good for the nation without focusing on cronyism and self-serving profiteering of politicians and their relatives. The TPLF-led regime does not function in this mindset. Economic development is not only a central preoccupation for political leaders but also by professional technocrats of a developmental state. Nationalist-cum-developmentalist ideology is used for both unifying nation building and economic development. Economic nationalism ideology is used to rally the masses for national unity and economic development. The centrality of economic development was such that it acquired the status of an ideology (“developmentalism”) national ideology, which seeks to subordinate the energy of the people behind a single national goal. Among others, the role of the government is maintaining public investment in infrastructure, research and development, and education to stimulate private investment, create skilled labor force and entrepreneurial class, etc. In the politics of nation building, the developmental state leadership focuses on the economics of nation building. In dictators-led developmental state leaders swear by economic growth and seem to view good growth indicators as the main source of their legitimacy. The developmental state is also committed to resolving conflicts in the on-going process of social restructuring as it tends to induce winners and losers in economic development. Conflict management in this regard involves ensuring that the benefits, expected benefits, of the growth process are widely shared and discussed among politicians, experts and the public. The developmental state is understood to be identified with its actual achievement of economic  growth, since its legitimacy stems from the significant improvement in standards of living for a broad cross section of society. Thus economic nationalism can include political interest groups molded into a developmental coalition for a common goal.

2. Developmental State-Structure: Professional Capacity Building

The state-structure of a developmental state emphasizes building structural capacity to implement economic policies sensibly and effectively. The capacity is determined by structural, institutional, technical, administrative, and political engagements and professional bureaucrats. Undergirding all these layers is the autonomy of the state from social forces so that it can use these capacities to devise long-term economic policies unfettered by private interests of corrupt politicians and unprofessional bureaucrats. The quest for a “strong state” in the development process is aligned with building administrative capacity more than the political ability to push through its developmental project using political power. The developmental state has some social anchoring that prevents it from using its autonomy in a predatory manner and enables it to gain devotion of key social actors. It does not rely on asymmetric nature of centre-periphery power relations, which tend to produce various class structures. Rather, it focuses on building capacity for appropriate state structures and functions that effectively promote development as a national goal. (See “a” and “b” below) The foundation to building a developmental state is to develop an educated population and a knowledgeable society with high levels of scientific literacy in building a knowledge economy based on professional business people and entrepreneurship. Economic nationalism leads to a harmonious society with a strategic partnership amongst labor, government, industry and society, which leads to a society that efficiently allocates and distributes resources.

a. Competent and Efficient Bureaucracy

It goes without saying that cooperation between state and major industries is crucial for maintaining stable macroeconomy since policies decided at the top levels of government are administered by middle-level bureaucrats. One of the main characteristics of a successful developmental state capacity building is creating an extensive bureaucratic layer consisting of mainly professional technocrats with highly developed economic and innovative visions, who are able to plan in large cycles that extend over long time periods. The bureaucrats also pay special attention to reconfiguring the social sphere so that the culture of appreciating the value of education is entrenched since technical education is the driver of increasing developmental capacity. For instance, in East Asia, the developmental state’s bureaucracy has several important characteristics. There was an extensive discourse on ‘developmentalism,’ the necessity of industrialization and of state intervention to promote it. The professional bureaucracy in Asia has a powerful social group of highly educated bureaucrats with predictable and coherent national interests. Thus, the public-private cooperation between the bureaucracy and business sector has been developed and refined through institutional adaptation over time, and responds flexibly to changing new realities in the respective country and international economic conditions. By and large, the behavior of Asian bureaucrats has been bound to the pursuit of collective goals rather than individual opportunities presented by the market, allowing the state to act with autonomy from certain societal pressures. The fact that formal competence, as opposed to clientelistic ties or loyalties, is the chief requirement for entry into the bureaucratic network makes it all the more valued among people. A competent and efficient bureaucracy dedicated to devising and implementing a planned process of economic development is central role of a developmental state. Developmental states staff the bureaucracy by the respective countries best human resources, who are charged with the task of directing the course of their countries’ development. Thus the chance to join the state bureaucracy has a high degree of prestige and professional legitimacy. This allows a developmental state not only to continue recruiting outstanding personnel, but also to utilize policy tools that tend to give them additional authority. As a result, the developmental state economies have developed the greatest state capacity not only to formulate development policies but also to implement them effectively to promote economic development. The TPLF-led regime has never nurtured bureaucratic professionalism but bureaucratic clientelism of loyal servants.

b. Embedded Autonomy of Professional Bureaucrats and Entrepreneurs

A competent and efficient bureaucracy under a developmental state is able to maintain effective relationship, especially regarding the direction and funding of investment projects, with the domestic business sector without direct intervention of the central government. Thus, the professional bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and the business sector have “embedded autonomy” when it comes to the relationship between the developmental state and the business sector. A successful developmental state needs to be sufficiently embedded in society so that it can achieve its development objectives by acting through “social infrastructure”, but not so close to business sector that it risks ‘capture’ by particular interest groups, which tend to lead to entrenched corruptions and rent-seeking. This no demarcation between the TPLF-led regime’s politics and the economy since politics and economy, including dominating economic ownership, are meshed together in Ethiopia-politics is economy; economy is politics.

TPLF-led Regime: A Kleptocratic State

The TPLF/EPRDF regime vividly lacks an ideology of development anchored in some form of economic nationalism that unifies Ethiopia as a collective goal. The government has not attempted to build national consensus on economic development of different interest groups with the exception of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Some argue that the GERD campaign by the regime is more for finance and political expedience than unifying the people under a national project. Economic growth rhetoric is sold as the domain and monopoly of the regime whereas the general public is ridiculously divided into “pro-development” and “anti-development”. And the opposition groups, by and large, fall under the category of “anti-development”. Surely, this is anti-thesis to a developmental state’s theme of building economic nationalism, which binds different interest groups of a country so that they all accept and take part in it as a collective national goal. Abay Tsehaye, in one of his interviews, clearly stated the economic goal of the regime in the long run. He stated that the regime has the agenda of creating an economically empowered class, which will control the economy and lead politics. This agenda has nothing to do with a developmental state agenda founded on building national consensus and economic nationalism as an ideology. The regime’s economic agenda is aligned with “divide-and-rule” and long term goal to lord over Ethiopia. Like the political goal of the regime, the economic agenda is also inherently discriminatory in its nature. In the lack of nurturing national development ideology and intrinsic one-party rule, loyalty to the regime easily overrides societal development goals. Individuals aligned with the regime often hold highly idiosyncratic mindset that they flout with impunity and with no moral qualms in politics, the economy and their general interaction with the business sector and the society at large. Consequently, TPLF/EPRDF regime’s leaders have no moral basis on which they could demand enthusiastic and internalized compliance to whatever “national project” they launch due to the lack of ideology of development, which addresses the public demand and national economic interests shared by all interest groups. Unlike the developmental state, the central political stage and layers of bureaucracies of the regime are not occupied by well educated professionals, who are guided by the aspirations of nation building and economic development. Loyalty is the major factor in bureaucratic appointments from top to the bottom, and hence most of the regime’s bureaucrats are less merited to occupy their offices. Rather than being competent and efficient bureaucracy, the processes of appointing less qualified individuals based on loyalty has led to an inescapable “development of underdevelopment” in Ethiopia’s bureaucracy, which in turn produced a series of political and economic contradictions and bureaucratic cronyism. Moreover, unlike a development state, the TPLF/EPRDF regime portrays foreign dependence syndrome, with a significant part of the regime’s budget covered by international budgetary aid. Externally dependent growth is not conducive for dynamic capital accumulation, which builds basis for a development state economy. Thus, even accepted at face value, equating the regime’s claimed booming economy of Ethiopia with a developmental state becomes problematic since the economy heavily depends on external factors, such as export of primary products and aid inflows.

TPLF-led State Controlled and Owned Economy

The institutional and economic structures of the regime are reinforced and constructed by political power to control the economy rather than developing national economic ideology or creating discourses with interest groups. Structural aspects of the regime’s economy include mass dislocation of society without offering alternative settings or means of survival. This kind of economic structure resembles settler colonial economy much more than a development state. This is most apparent in land-grab and the privileging of elements of the regime, their families and supporters. Access to politicians paves way for getting rich much more than individuals’ entrepreneurial and business skills. Large chunk of renowned entrepreneurs and business people have been forced to leave Ethiopia and migrate to other countries. The economic system and its bureaucracy are structured as a predatory state, where top rulers and layers of bureaucracy have predatory motives, and hence less willing to part with corruptions and rent-seeking. The aim of regime is to exploit the physical, human, and economic resources for the benefit the leaders of the regime and few others aligned with them. The economic goals of regime are simple. It is to provide maximum economic benefit to the individuals in power at the expense of the majority. Like colonial settlers, the individual needs of their subjects are neither important nor part of their economic goals. The imposition of economic policy is often arbitrary and unrelated to any real need of the majority of the people. This led to inadequacy of the food entitlements and chronic malnutrition and famine. Unlike a development state’s national development driven by all-encompassing economic nationalism, the TPLF/EPRDF regime’s economic agenda is more about economic subjugation and about the regime’s ability to control of the economy. Improving the production methods and strengthening national economy for all people are not the priorities. It’s all about empowering the likes of REST to be unchallengeable economic giants of Ethiopia. There is a crystal clear lack of autonomy of the business sector due to the unholy relationship of state-society and state-business under the TPLF-EPRDF regime. There is bureaucratic malaise into both market and state structures and it has eaten into the very core of the edifice of modern administration rendering it both weak and incoherent, at best. Mired in clientelism, the state has not been able to provide the bureaucratic order and predictability that business sector and entrepreneurs need to engage in long-term investment and contribute to long-term national development. TPLF-led regime is literally driven interest groups and mired in state-clientelist relationships. And hence it is even lacking in “stateness” in a strict sense of the word. Self-interest groups which control the state adopt policies that generated rents for them. The TPLF/EPRDF state is essentially a rent generating institution that inhibited efficient allocation of resources. Rent seeking usually involves redistribution of income from one group to another, and in Ethiopia, it is redistribution from poor to the rich through corruptions and rent-seeking. Let alone being a development state, the regime cannot pursue the collective task of development in the long run. It has crushed most of the strategies and institutions that build a solid foundation for development. State-society relationships are inherent to national development, and mistrust runs both ways-the regime does not trust the people and the people don’t trust the regime.

 Conclusion

The developmental state refers to the collective economic and human development via state’s essential role in harnessing national human, financial, etc. resources and directing incentives through a distinctive policy-making process. The foundation for building a developmental state is the ability to establish nationalist educated population by creating a harmonious society with strategic partnerships amongst labor, government, industry and society as well as efficiently allocating and distributing resources. The success of the developmental state also stems from the ‘embedded autonomy,’ in which the developmental state is linked intimately with the private sector but preserves sufficient distance for the renegotiation of goals and policies when capital interests are inconsistent with national development. The key government actors under the TPLF-led are irredeemably greedy, corrupt and captured by rent seekers and economies of personal wealth accumulation, and hence focus on promoting vested interests over national development. They don’t think creatively of modes of social organization at both macro and micro level that can extricate Ethiopia from poverty and lead it to the long term path of development. Appropriate institutional structures do not exist in Ethiopia to socially engineer a developmental state since a development state is a social construct consciously brought about by a state, its bureaucracy and societies. Economic nationalism of a developmental state cannot take root. We cannot draw parallels between TPLF-led regime and developmental states implemented in Asia. Unlike TPLF, Asian dictators were/are very nationalist with the goal to change the living standard of their people and promote their countries in the world. TPLF leaders have beef with most of the people in Ethiopia such as Oromos and Amaras. TPLF’s governance resembles settler colonialism of the apartheid system in South Africa and British land-grab system in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) much more than the developmental state systems in Asia. The regime does not pursue collective economic empowerment agenda. In dictatorial developmental states, even where was no political freedom but people had economic freedom. Under the TPLF/EPRDF regime, there is neither political nor economic freedom. Discriminatory economic policies, with enclave economy nature, are more aligned to colonial policies. TPLF governance is unequivocally becoming ethnic apartheid in political, economic, etc. fronts. Its policies are designed to marginalize dissenting people from economic benefits and then to impoverish them for long term political and economic control whereas the leaders and their relatives profiteering through deeply entrenched cronyism. Developmental state dictators in Asia were not consumed by self-enriching schemes via corruptions and rent-seeking. Actually, the Asian dictators were very tough on corrupted individuals, politicians, etc. Although they did not stop it, corruption leads to very long imprisonments. But people join the TPLF/EPRDF regime to get license to be corrupt and rent-seeker without any repercussion. The TPLF –led regime is structurally and institutionally corrupt, which was not the case under Asian developmental state system. Finally, the TPLF-led regime is weak, over-extended, and interfere with the smooth functioning of the markets with its repressive characters and draconian policies. It heavily depends on foreign powers for its existence. Therefore, it is not an example of a developmental state by any account. I think phrases like the “rentier state”, the “overextended state”, the “parasitical state”, the “predatory state”, the “crony state”, and the “kleptocratic state” better fit the TPLF/EPRDF regime. I think it is a kleptocratic state/autocracy (rule by thieves) made up of very greedy individuals addicted to personal wealth accumulation through structured and institutionalized corruptions and rent-seeking.

The article is originally published at:-

TPLF-led Regime is not a Developmental State

 

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https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/the-conflict-between-the-ethiopian-state-and-the-oromo-people-by-dr-alemayehu-kumsa/