Book Review: SEEDS FOR DEMOCRATIZATION IN ETHIOPIA- WHY UNITY OF PURPOSE MATTERS

BOOK REVIEW 

AUTHOR: TAMIRATE B.SEMEGN 

TITLE:  SEEDS FOR DEMOCRATIZATION IN ETHIOPIA- WHY UNITY OF PURPOSE MATTERS 

PUBLISHED BY AUTHORHOUSE, 2007, 255 PAGES 

In the foreword of this valuable book we find the following quote:“A young man’s dilemma: “How does one co-exist and live with a clear conscience in comfort in the midst of poverty?”  It casts light on Tamirate himself who wrote this book with a conscience that says no to the bad governance and missed opportunities. He puts it clearly: “The debate about governance is, ultimately, about the coming generation of Ethiopians and their abilities to deter/prevent poverty that afflicts the vast majority”. Tamirate attempts and succeeds to delve deep into the real causes of the existing poverty and its political and economic reasons. 

This book, that should be read by all Ethiopians (an Amharic translation is on the way) is divided into eight chapters: political governance /the missing link/; failed leadership and missed opportunities; revolutionary democracy/dictatorial or representative?/; endemic poverty and governance; the Ethiopian brain drain/a national crisis/;transforming mindsets, attitudes, behaviors and values; the vital role of the Diaspora. Tamirate is no distant observer of the Ethiopian scene– from the book one gets the clear impression that he is involved in the ongoing struggle against poverty and bad governance. The book is timely in that it also deals with the CUDP and UEDF attempts to forge change peacefully and the ensuing repression. As an active member of the Ethiopian student movement and the struggle of the sixties for democratization Tamirate gives us informative background on the sacrifices made in the fight against feudalism and autocracy. Tamirate does not forget to focus on the most oppressed, for example women, and the effect of bad governance on their lot. Shattered expectations and moral decay are analyzed with vigor and the why of all this is addressed. How come the poverty became grinding? How come the expectations of the people get dashed time and again? How come human capital, “the key force in development”, get underrated and wasted? While Tamirate does give due importance to the role of the Diaspora, especially in light of its visible support to the CUDP, it is my opinion that he gives it much more importance and weight than it deserves when he argues that the Diaspora “must educate the opposition parties, civic organizations, media outlets, professional associations and intellectuals to explore the possibility of creating a well structured, coordinated and sustainable worldwide democratic umbrella organization”. It is precisely this over dependence on the Diaspora and particularly on those in North America that lies at the root of the myriad problems of the opposition parties that have subsequently failed to forge close ties with their home constituencies and their basic yearnings and demands. The author’s assertion that the USA is “a country that is truly a laboratory of current knowledge and thinking that lives and breathes democracy at all level of civic and social life” and by implication that the Ethiopian Diaspora in America is also beneficiary of this is more than debatable on all premises. In fact, the elitist approach to opposition politics has not borne fruit and the opposition parties should realize that it is high time they guided the Diaspora to be politically useful and supportive without assuming the role of “guide’ and educator. 

Tami rate’s book is perhaps the most extensive critic of the failed leadership of the CUDP and on the damages of the disarray and acrimony that ensued (pp.206-238). Still, the place he gives to the CUDP and the role of the Diaspora leaves me uneasy. One shares the author’s anger at what he calls selfish and partisan interests standing in the way of unity and opening the way to fragmentation but his reference to taking the ‘higher road”, mutual trust, truthfulness and honesty, and the like comes out as a panacea from Dr. Deepak Chopra (quoted by the author on page 215) and not a political analysis of the failures. The CUDP crisis is basically political, the inability of the hastily patched up Kinjit to be political and not just a conglomeration of wild expectations and blurred visions. The CUDP failed in the first test of “know your enemy and know yourself”, it harbored illusions as regards the EPRDF and had a high opinion of itself without even setting up a solid organization other than a poorly guided mass movement of protest it wanted to label the tsunami. The role of the Diaspora in the evolution of the CUDP was not all positive as the Diaspora is made up of exiles of various political shades (it is no secret that many activists of the fallen regime rallied to the CUDP tent) and divisive influences stamped on the path taken by the CUDP leaders who were in the first place forced out of the UEDF by the ‘advice’ of Diaspora members. An organization without due structure (not just leadership top heavy but membership level down to the kebelle and wereda) and contingency plan based on the clear realization of the nature of the ruling group was bound to falter and fall victim to the more organized force holding power. In other words, there was no way in which the CUDP would prevail over the EPRDF. 

Tamirate adequately explains the financial and resource monopolistic control of the TPLF while at the same time putting the vital nationalities question into proper perspective and insisting that as before revolutionaries should emphasize the primacy of the class struggle. Obviously, this question ahs been narrowly subverted be it by the TPLF, Shabia or OLF but the reverse side of the coin that it epitomized by the opposition that seems to yearn for the “good old days” of chauvinist supremacy needs also to be castigated. Tamirate’s apt criticism of Tecola Hagos and the Eritrean Jordan Gebremedhin needs to be read even if it is brief. No one can argue against Tamirate’s firm assertion that the foundation for a strong, peaceful, democratic, prosperous and unified Ethiopia should be unwavering commitment to unity in diversity, a commitment that the ruling party leaders lack so glaringly.  

Let me end with a relevant quote from the author:

“There is no doubt that the absence of a culture of dialogue and cooperation among opposition groups has adversely affected the possibility of positive transformation in Ethiopia. A major flaw within the camp of the opposition has been and continues to be the lack of a culture of perceiving and accepting minor disagreements as acceptable norms of behavior. In order to contribute to the democratization process, and in order to save our country from the balkanization process that is in the making, opposition parties, civic organizations, opinion leaders, civic societies, associations and intellectuals need to place the national interests of the Ethiopian people above narrow, partisan and individual interests. It is the national agenda of democratic change and freedom that should govern our individual and group behaviors, relationships and actions. There is no shortcut to achieve democracy and freedom” (emphasis mine- LT),p.252. 

Tamirate, an obvious optimist, concludes his book by stating that “we can now use the freedom of the CUDP leaders as a break through to reinvigorate the support of the Diaspora” (p.252). Alas, the division has only increased and deepened. All the more for all of us to read this book by Tamirate .  

Seeds for Democratization in Ethiopia is must read book and I advise on all to get a copy, to read and discuss it. 

A copy can be ordered from http://www.authorhouse.com, price US$20 

Review by: Lemma Tesfaye

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Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

CALL ME BY MY NAME: Seeking Solutions with Debteraw, XXI

Wolde Tewolde, alias Obo Arada Shawl (December 13, 2007)

 “If a more likeable human being than DEBTERAW is currently around EPRP, I haven’t found him or her.”
Anonymous

A WEEK of celebration on the occasion of the 2nd Anniversary of Debteraw’s Website
A DAY of appreciation for DTSGM’s work
A GENERATION of struggle by EPRP members

The event was sponsored by AAssimba.Com and FINOTE orgs. (Both radio and print). For those who missed the occasion, I recommend them to visit the archives.  For those who have participated, I would like to thank and encourage all individuals and groups who testified for the figure father of EPRP – aka DTSGM to continue not only to demand for his whereabouts but also to continue to follow his path of struggle.

The event became a process for the Immortalized of Debteraw and according to the numerous testimonies it is summed up as follows:

Debteraw was admired by many people for his convictions and a love for his country, Ethiopia, his skills as a communicator, his understanding of himself and his honesty. It seems that he was incapable of dishonesty.

But above all, everyone and everybody admired Debteraw’s ability to relate to people. Outwardly Debteraw looks shy but was able to connect with any one, be it a professor, a proletariat, a patriarch or member of a press. Debteraw basically liked people whether rich or poor, with Title or not Title. But more importantly Debteraw connected with the people closer to him. He truly cared about the people in his organization of EPRP. As far as he is concerned, he treated everybody the same whether from the Politbureau, CC or ordinary member. In short, Debteraw has solid relationships because everyone liked being around Debteraw because he loved people and connected with them. Debteraw understood that relationships were the glue that held his EPRP members together – the more solid the relationship, the more cohesive EPRP would

Be. More importantly Debu believe in people before they have proved themselves. He sees the best in people to have faith in themselves.

I woke up on Sunday morning, a day of mediation, at exactly 4:30 AM Washington Eastern time. Here is what has been relayed to me from Debteraw’s voice.

 “ On my 2nd day of website anniversary- my current domicile- you seem to be lost in the maze of talks. I used to talk to you in Words i.e. verbal, then I used to send you a WRITTEN WORD i.e. WR and I also occasionally contacted you spiritually. There was no problem then. What has happened to you when it comes to join the pal talkers? They were all individual friends chatting in my current address. They call it D’H’RE Ge’TS website (maybe a misnomer). It is a different form of C and S. (conspiracy and secrecy). But it is OK. You are in ELECTRONIC digital SYSTEM, just smile.” The voice continued to say, “Go to the mountain of AASSIMBA. Tell to the mountain about ® and tell everybody and everyone to say my name as   q q  . ÖÖçç ììì .

Did you listen to my real voice in FINOTE DEMOCRACIA? I can see you are still struggling to decipher the letter B so as to put the letter E in focus but I am still dealing with the letter F, F and F in order to give it a third leg. Of course, you understand what I mean?” With that sememen, Debteraw is gone.

My own reflections

I woke up in real time and reflected on the following:

What am I?
Who am I?When did I come? Where am I going?

And
Why ME? May be for posterity – alias WARSAI. 

Why me: Or more particularly because I am possessed by the data and access of the Regions from A-Z (T).

  1. National resource from ARUSSI
  2. Border cooperation from BALE
  3. Energy from ERITREA
  4. God’s Bridge from GEMU GOFA
  5. Water from GODJAM
  6. Government from GONDER
  7. Unity from HARARGHE
  8.  Rainfall from ILLUBABOR
  9. Coffee from KEFFA
  10. Secrecy & Conspiracy from SHEWA
  11. Security from SIDAMO
  12. Wisdom from WOLLO
  13. Soil from WOLLEGA
  14. Trade from TIGRAI

What: I am War, Revolution and Terror (WRT)
Who: Born in Eritrea, raised in Agame Awraja, educated in Addis Ababa and have worked all over Ethiopia and currently residing in America. What is my identity? Can anyone tell me or put a label on me, please?
When: From the time of HENOK (descendant of Adam & Eve)
Where: From AAssab port to RAS Dashen i.e. AAGMELAGO

So where is the land of Peace and Democracy? Nowhere in Ethiopia as you can see from the above resource and data analysis. Practically all organizations and political parties cry for Peace and Democracy. Do they know that EPRP has been crying for these two words since its inception? EPRP members and its supporters have been literally and figuratively were massacred for asking for PEACE in Eritrea and DEMOCRACIA in Ethiopia. Nobody listened and nobody seems to learn from EPRP either. Is it not a shame not to learn from the experience and history of EPRP?

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM DEBTERAW

PAST                                                  PRESENT

  • Discipline                                  Respect
  • Integrity                                    Shared Experience
  • Responsibility                           Trust
  • Self-Respect and                      Reciprocity and
  • Team work                               Mutual enjoyment

In Short (DIRST)                                 (RSTRM)

CONCLUSION

Debteraw’s website is getting passionate. Passion is the difference between doing a job and being a professional. The passion for Debteraw’s website is the difference between liking DTSGM as a person and claiming him as READ for EPRP and as national hero for Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Special thanks for Debteraw Team. Let the light for Truth is ignited in your Website beginning on Christmas and spreading throughout via other websites for the sake of EPRP.

For comments and criticisms: Woldetewolde@yahoo.com

Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 7:05 pm  Comments (10)  

The Untold Truth

Lieutenant K.M

In this genuine event, it is worthy to begin the episode with what General Eisenhower said during his time in the US administration. “Every gun that is made, every worship  launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Especially when this happened in a country whose population is living below an absolute poverty level, it is really heartbreaking event. Though every single military resource is supposed to be utilized for the ultimate protection of one’s own country, wasting these expensive resources has its own destructive impact on the same in many aspects. As many know, Ethiopia has maintained its sovereignty and territorial integrity since thousands of years as its nation is courageous in defending its mother land against invading enemies. Even in those ancient times when the country had no formal military institutions and organizations, it was able to defeat and send back foreign invaders because of the courage and strength of its nation and the leadership capability of administrators ruling the country.

Here it is intended to present the current situation existing in the Ethiopian Defense Force leading to destructive and uncontrollable situation and wasting the country’s resources that would have been utilized in many other critical areas. It is obvious that one way of modernizing an army is establishing technology based institutions that are capable of training and educating army officers to cope up with modern technologies, manufacture and maintain different army equipment in order to be efficient and effective at the battle field. Such a huge task requires expensive input, enthusiastic workforce and it might be un-economical if not managed properly.  Most may agree on the fundamental issue that it is essential to establish these institutions to certain extent in Ethiopia, but the critical question here is, are these institutions functioning properly to achieve the desired objectives?

In the past regimes in Ethiopia, there were institutions primarily engaged in recruiting and training Military Cadets, such as the Harer Cadet Academy and Yegent Tor Academy and lower level technical schools. However, officers and others have been sent to foreign countries primarily to acquire details of military science and technology.  As a result it was logical to establish a home based military technological institution at least to address some technical requirements with in the country.  

It was on such a basis that Defense Engineering College later became Defense University College, was established in 1997. As a beginner, it was not easy to find sufficient staff, equipment and other inputs locally to run the college. As a result it was demanded to bring foreign qualified instructors, to import expensive machines and equipment that eventually derived enormous expenses and running costs. The average monthly salary of one foreign instructor is about ten times higher than that of an Ethiopian equivalent. It is believed that no other university in Ethiopia has been established with such a huge initial cost. Then it started admitting prospective students both from the army and civilian organizations. Later when Defense Engineering College transformed to Defense University College, it comprised the college of engineering, college of health science, and the college of management. However, the college of engineering was the most powerful one in terms of budget allocation and resource consumption. This fact attracted administrative officials, especially, in the College of Engineering to continuously destabilize the normal structure of the university and breakdown it in to individual colleges in order to gain autonomous administrative power in the College of Engineering.

Apart from educating military students in the university, many staff instructors have also been sent for further studies to foreign countries such as India, Russia, China etc. This again escalated the expense being consumed to run the university. As it said at the beginning, it is very essential to evaluate if all these human and material resources are utilized properly to meet the stated objectives. Below a few major problems that prohibited the achievement of the intended objectives are presented.

1.      The major threat against the intended objectives is the lack of effective leadership in the university. There exists disobedience to the hierarchical administrative lines that extended from the university to the colleges. As an academic institution, the colleges under the university should have accepted decisions made and approved by the university senate and implement them. However, what has been experienced is that while the university has planned   implementation of scheduled tasks in the colleges, especially the college of engineering has violated to execute these tasks. It was a frequent phenomenon that several decisions made by the university senate and the commandant of the university were deliberately ignored and left unexecuted. This finally caused the collapse of the university and the existence of individual colleges as separate bodies, which was the secret plan undergone in order to hold the autonomous power of administration at  the College of Engineering .

2.      There are also problems of corruption associated with higher level officers maintaining key positions at the colleges. In recruiting foreign instructors, the procedure is that selection board from the university or the colleges is sent abroad and investigate the qualifications of foreign instructors before hiring them. However, in the past many foreign instructors with low qualification and work experience were hired and slowed down the teaching learning process. The worst scenario is that these low qualified instructors , who are expected to leave the colleges unconditionally, are subjected to pay part of their salaries to the army officials and stay in the colleges. This is a fact that many know and can give their witnesses. Even there were real incidents, such as meetings, where this situation became obvious to top military officials at Defense Ministry, but no measures were taken.

3.      In the Ethiopian constitution it is stated that the defense force should maintain impartial stand regardless of the political beliefs and experience of both the ruling and opposition parties. The army is basically required to protect the country against invading enemies. As a military academic institution, this university should have also practiced what is stated on the constitution. However, the army officials and key officers in the colleges have taken a side to the ruling party and condemn opposition parties and their ideas. Specially after the 2005 national election, students and staff members who were expressing their constructive ideas have been labeled as members and supporters of opposition parties and faced sever challenges. Some of them were forced to migrate to other countries fearing the attack of the government and some were detained and is unclear where they are still now.


4.     
Another  problem is a common one that graduates of the college are facing not only at Defense University College but also in any other department where they are assigned under the Ministry of National Defense. While admitting prospective students, officials give several promises. However, they meet only very few of them. For instance, military instructors having Bachelor of Technology and teaching at Defense University College and those assigned on technical areas in other sections, such as Ethiopian Air force, Dejen Aviation Maintenance and Complex Ambo Artillery Factory, Project 40027 etc, receive one half the salary of their equivalents working at civilian institutions. In the past the government has claimed bonus and salary raise but graduates of this university have been approved for very few of them. Every time when they demand their right, it is given a political interpretation and cover and put their life in danger.


5.     
A horrible scenario at this moment is the plan to pay these graduates according to their military rank, rather than their professional qualification, that is contradicting the promise given while admitting them to the colleges. But the fact is that almost all of these graduates are at private level irrespective of their bachelor and masters degrees. Shifting the payment technique from professional scheme to military rank scheme will greatly decline their salary. If these graduates found working part time in any other institution, as many civil graduates do, they would be thrown to jail.


6.     
As an academic institution, whose major objective should be   addressing technical problems in the army, major emphasis should have been given to academic issues. However, what has been experienced is that academic issues are paid much lesser priority than the political issues. Interruptions of already scheduled academic classes are common phenomenon. These interruptions last long time and violate the yearly academic calendars. During such interruptions, several formal and informal meetings are conducted primarily to address political issues of the ruling party and to put pressure on the army members to provide their support for the ruling party, which is an anti constitutional practice that isolates other competitive opposition parties. If such meetings had been conducted to rectify the already existing series problems in the university, the stated objectives would have been achieved.


7.     
The fear environment that exists in the college is another major threat against the effort to achieve the planned goal .There is no freedom to speak and explain one’s own ideas and beliefs. It seems there is encouragement to do so, however, it is done to know what is there in someone’s mind.  Many staff members and students have been abused, and forced to migrate to other countries fearing detainment and arrest .Several others have also been detained, imprisoned and faced fatal challenges for expressing their own constructive ideas and beliefs. Moreover, strategic intelligence network is now implemented in the army and other civil organizations by further training selected graduates of the college who are from single ethnic tribe and loyal to the ruling party. This intelligence network is aimed at intercepting electronic communications, blocking oppositions’ websites and others. It is a real opportunity to make sure that ethnic discrimination is still the key principle of the regime’s politics in the army and the discriminatory policies have led to blind repression against graduates from other ethnic groups.


8.     
There is a general tagging by higher military officers that graduates of these colleges are threats to their policies and administration as most of them strive for their rights and for better way of accomplishing their assignments. After all, they demand their rights after completing their duties and responsibilities. There was no any circumstance that these graduates gave priority to their demands rather than to their commitment. They all work with full effort, enthusiastically , and even as  slaves if what they are  getting in return is considered .Such a huge friction and confrontation between these graduates and higher officers has left its destructive impact on the effort to achieve the desired target.  Recently,  graduates working in different areas under the Ministry of National Defense signed a petition to the prime minister’s office to indicate the existing troubling conditions at the work place. But, the promise given to them was not implemented. Instead the problem escalated in an effort to break apart their unity and harm them for demanding a significant change in Ministry. This problem greatly hindered and prohibited the effective utilization of this useful and trained human resource.  


9.     
As it is explained before, enormous installation and running costs are required to maintain the existence of the university. However, for the sake of holding key administrative power independently, the collapse of the university was accelerated. It was a terrific news for those working enthusiastically to end up the existence of the university as their effort is achieved, while a tragedy for the rest of us. There was no opportunity made available for students, staff members, former graduates, and responsible officials from Ministry of National Defense to discuss and comment on this vital issue before taking this action. Even at this instant, many former graduates, military officials, ministry of Education and other civil organizations haven’t been informed about this heartbreaking decision.


10. 
There have been several contradicting episodes happening in the college while making a critical decision. Whenever a new commandant is assigned, several experimental decisions will be made. For instance, in almost all military technological institutions in the world, when students graduate with diploma , they will also be awarded Second  Lieutenant or equivalent military rank and  degree graduates will be awarded First Lieutenant rank. Once in the past there was an experience to pursue in this fashion, and then it stopped immediately. It is important to remember that all graduates assigned to teach at Defense University, General Buli Technical school, Air Force training school and others have academic ranks above graduate assistant level and most of them reached to Lecturer level. These graduates were consistently asking a revision of their military ranks because much emphasis was given to military aspects rather than the academic issues. They are almost forgotten and are lost the kind of academic consideration that should have been given to them. But since recent times the ruling party has been pressurized by civil service reforms and has raised wages and salaries of government employees. Then a question came whether these graduates should be entitled for the benefit. But the way this issue is resolved is controversial and contradicting to the previous decisions made by higher military officers administering the colleges. It is to bring these graduates from private level to Lieutenant and captain ranks and pay them with their military ranks. It is clear that these graduates will no more raise further questions when the government claims other benefits. Well, there is no question in promoting them, but this decision is made deliberately to decline those little benefits offered by the government. After all, they are more committed than their equivalents at civilian institutions and also equally and even more competent. But they don’t have the right to seek for legal offers. At this point it is important to note the experience that there is always an increase in living expenses associated with the raise in wages and salaries of employees. One group is protected by law while another is even loosing what was having before. But still these graduates believe that priority should be given to address the country’s demand rather than their own needs and aspirations, and that is why they are still serving their country under this desperating and life threatening situation.

To conclude, the existing political, social and other issues in the Ethiopian Defense Force, particularly in those colleges, training schools and the organization as a whole are precarious and unsafe to openly discuss on current affairs, to demand the respect of freedom of speech and human right, and is biased on the sole decision of few and unable to address the demand of the mass military members. It is also focuses on a dividing policy that led to ethnic discrimination. Because of this many trained professionals are detained, faced life threatening challenges, forced to migrate to other countries and still the future is expected to be even more gloomy unless a critical measure is taken to rectify the above mentioned and other problems.      

Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 7:08 am  Comments (3)