Tuesday, December 18, 2012


December 18, 2012

Washington, D.C.: Today, 16 members of the European Parliament issued a public letter to Ethiopian Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn expressing their grave concern regarding the continued detention of imprisoned journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega.

Arrested in 2011 and detained without access to an attorney for nearly two months, Mr. Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison under the country’s broad 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation on July 13, 2012. Mr. Nega’s arrest and prosecution came after he wrote online articles and spoke publicly about the possibility of an Arab Spring-like movement taking place in Ethiopia. After his sentencing, the government initiated proceedings to seize his assets, including the home still used by his wife and young son. An appeal hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday, December 19th.

The letter notes that the Ethiopian government has an obligation to uphold the right to free expression and reminds the newly appointed Prime Minister that he has “the unique opportunity to lead Ethiopia forward on human rights and bring the country fully within the community of nations.” The letter closes by urging the Prime Minister to take all measures within his power “to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nega.”

“This is an important recognition by members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum that the right to free expression is universal and must be respected by the Ethiopian government,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “Mr. Nega has been wrongfully detained in Ethiopia in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and he must be released.”

The text of the letter is copied below and a PDF of the letter can be found here. Freedom Now, a legal advocacy organization that represents prisoners of conscience around the world, serves as international pro bono counsel to Mr. Nega.


Dear Prime Minister Desalegn,

We write to express our grave concern regarding the continued detention of independent Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega and urge you to facilitate his immediate release.

Mr. Nega, a longtime publisher and journalist, was arrested in 2011 and charged under the country’s 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation after he wrote and spoke publicly about the Arab-Spring movements then unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa. Although clearly sympathetic, Mr. Nega consistently emphasized that any similar movements in Ethiopia must remain peaceful. Despite this, the government of your predecessor Prime Minister Meles Zenawi arrested Mr. Nega, held him without access to family for nearly one month and without access to an attorney for nearly two months, and ultimately sentenced him to 18 years in prison. Even now, reports indicate that proceedings are underway to seize Mr. Nega’s home, where his wife and young son continue to live.

Unfortunately, Mr. Nega is not alone—journalists Woubshet Taye and Reyot Alemu have also received long prison sentences on terror charges. In response to your government’s use of the 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation against journalists and opposition leaders, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and five United Nations Special Rapporteurs—including the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights—have all expressed alarm at this worrying trend. As some have noted, the use of vague anti-terror legislation to silence legitimate expression threatens to seriously undermine the credibility of efforts to address real security threats to the region.

It is our understanding that appeal proceedings in Mr. Nega’s case are ongoing and we respect your need to allow the judicial process to continue. However, it is also your government’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression as established under customary international law and codified in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is a party.

You now have the unique opportunity to lead Ethiopia forward on human rights and bring the country fully within the community of nations. As such, we urge you to take all measures within your power to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nega.


Alexander Graf Lambsdorff

Ana Gomes

Charles Tannock

Eduard Kukan

Eija-Riitta Korhola

Emilio Menendez del Valle

Fiona Hall

Frank Engel

Kinga Gál

Laima Liucija Andrikienė

Maria Da Graça Carvalho

Mariya Gabriel

Michael Gahler

Norbert Neuser

Olle Schmidt

David Martin

Monday, December 10, 2012

U.N. Ambassador Questioned on U.S. Role in Congo Violence


NYT, News Analysis, December 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — Almost two decades after the Clinton administration failed to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, the United States is coming under harsh criticism for not moving forcefully in another African crisis marked by atrocities and brutal killings, this time in Rwanda's neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have taken some of the blame, critics of the Obama administration's Africa policy have focused on the role of Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to succeed Mrs. Clinton, in the administration's failure to take action against the country they see as a major cause of the Congolese crisis, Rwanda.

Specifically, these critics — who include officials of human rights organizations and United Nations diplomats — say the administration has not put enough pressure on Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, to end his support for the rebel movement whose recent capture of the strategic city of Goma in Congo set off a national crisis in a country that has already lost more than three million people in more than a decade of fighting. Rwanda's support is seen as vital to the rebel group, known as M23.

Support for Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government has been a matter of American foreign policy since he led the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory over the incumbent government in July 1994, effectively ending the Rwandan genocide. But according to rights organizations and diplomats at the United Nations, Ms. Rice has been at the forefront of trying to shield the Rwandan government, and Mr. Kagame in particular, from international censure, even as several United Nations reports have laid the blame for the violence in Congo at Mr. Kagame's door.

A senior administration official said Saturday that Ms. Rice was not freelancing, and that the American policy toward Rwanda and Congo was to work with all the countries in the area for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Aides to Ms. Rice acknowledge that she is close to Mr. Kagame and that Mr. Kagame's government was her client when she worked at Intellibridge, a strategic analysis firm in Washington. Ms. Rice, who served as the State Department's top African affairs expert in the Clinton administration, worked at the firm with several other former Clinton administration officials, including David J. Rothkopf, who was an acting under secretary in the Commerce Department; Anthony Lake, Mr. Clinton's national security adviser; and John M. Deutch, who was director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Payton Knopf, a spokesman for Ms. Rice, initially declined to comment on whether her work with Rwanda at Intellibridge affected her dealings with the country in her present job as an ambassador. But on Monday, Mr. Knopf said: "Ambassador Rice's brief consultancy at Intellibridge has had no impact on her work at the United Nations. She implements the agreed policy of the United States at the U.N."        

Two months ago, at a meeting with her French and British counterparts at the French Mission to the United Nations, according to a Western diplomat with knowledge of the meeting, Ms. Rice objected strongly to a call by the French envoy, Gerard Araud, for explicitly "naming and shaming" Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government for its support of M23, and to his proposal to consider sanctions to pressure Rwanda to abandon the rebel group.

"Listen Gerard," she said, according to the diplomat. "This is the D.R.C. If it weren't the M23 doing this, it would be some other group." The exchange was reported in Foreign Policy magazine last week.

A few weeks later, Ms. Rice again stepped in to protect Mr. Kagame. After delaying for weeks the publication of a United Nations report denouncing Rwanda's support for the M23 and opposing any direct references to Rwanda in United Nations statements and resolutions on the crisis, Ms. Rice intervened to water down a Security Council resolution that strongly condemned the M23 for widespread rape, summary executions and recruitment of child soldiers. The resolution expressed "deep concern" about external actors supporting the M23. But Ms. Rice prevailed in preventing the resolution from explicitly naming Rwanda when it was passed on Nov. 20.

Mr. Knopf, the spokesman for Ms. Rice, said the view of the United States was that delicate diplomatic negotiations under way among Rwanda, Congo and Uganda could have been adversely affected if the Security Council resolution explicitly named Rwanda. "Working with our colleagues in the Security Council, the United States helped craft a strong resolution to reinforce the delicate diplomatic effort then getting under way in Kampala," Mr. Knopf said.

The negotiations subsequently fell apart, and the M23 continued to make gains in eastern Congo. Last week, the M23 withdrew from Goma but left behind agents and remain in range of the city.

Mr. Knopf declined to confirm or deny the account offered by the United Nations diplomat about the conversation between Ms. Rice and the French ambassador. But he said that "Ambassador Rice has frequently and publicly condemned the heinous abuses perpetrated by the M23 in eastern Congo," adding that the United States was "leading efforts to end the rebellion, including by leveling U.S. and U.N. sanctions against M23 leaders and commanders."

Ms. Rice's critics say that is the crux of the problem with the American response to the crisis in Congo: it ignores, for the most part, the role played by Mr. Kagame in backing the M23, and, as it happens, risks repeating the mistakes of the genocide by not erring on the side of aggressive action. "I fear that our collective regret about not stopping the Rwandan genocide, felt by all of us who worked for the Clinton administration, led to policies that overlooked more waves of atrocities in the Congo, which we should equally regret," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, who has worked closely with Ms. Rice both in the Clinton administration and after.

"For almost 20 years now, the premise of U.S. policy has been that quiet persuasion is the best way to restrain Rwanda from supporting war criminals in the Congo," Mr. Malinowski said. "It might have made sense once, but after years of Rwanda doing what the U.S. has urged it not to do, contributing to massive civilian deaths, and ripping up U.N. resolutions that the U.S. sponsored, the time to speak plainly and impose penalties has come."

When Mrs. Clinton appeared before reporters on Nov. 28 to talk about the M23's seizure of Goma, she sprinkled her talking points with a demand that the rebel group withdraw, calling the humanitarian impact "devastating," with 285,000 people forced to flee their homes, health workers abducted and killed, and civil workers under threat of death. But she made no mention of Rwanda's role backing the rebel group, limiting her inclusion of Rwanda to a mention of negotiations with Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo to try to get a cease-fire.

"The M23 would probably no longer exist today without Rwandan support," said Jason K. Stearns, author of "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of Congo and the Great War of Africa." "It stepped in to prevent the movement from collapsing and has been providing critical military support for every major offensive."

Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, noted that the United States cut a portion of its military financing for Rwanda — around $250,000. But the Rwandan military continues to receive substantial American training, equipment and financial help. In an interview, he said, "There is not an ounce of difference between myself and Ambassador Rice on this issue," adding that quiet diplomacy was better than publicly calling out Mr. Kagame.

Ms. Rice, who has been at the eye of a political storm over her portrayal of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in recent days, she seems to have tried to publicly distance herself from the M23 — although still not from Mr. Kagame. On Dec. 3, she posted on her Facebook page: "The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms horrific M23 violence. Any and all external support has to stop," in a reference to action in the Senate.

Her posting drew immediate responses. "Condemn the rape but don't name the rapist?" one of them said. "What kind of Justice is that?"



Susan Rice and Africa’s Despots


NYT Op-Ed, December 9, 2012

ON Sept. 2, Ambassador Susan E. Rice delivered a eulogy for a man she called "a true friend to me." Before thousands of mourners and more than 20 African heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ms. Rice, the United States' representative to the United Nations, lauded the country's late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. She called him "brilliant" — "a son of Ethiopia and a father to its rebirth."

Few eulogies give a nuanced account of the decedent's life, but the speech was part of a disturbing pattern for an official who could become President Obama's next secretary of state. During her career, she has shown a surprising and unsettling sympathy for Africa's despots.

This record dates from Ms. Rice's service as assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Bill Clinton, who in 1998 celebrated a "new generation" of African leaders, many of whom were ex-rebel commanders; among these leaders were Mr. Meles, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jerry J. Rawlings of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda.

"One hundred years from now your grandchildren and mine will look back and say this was the beginning of an African renaissance," Mr. Clinton said in Accra, Ghana, in March 1998.

In remarks to a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that year, Ms. Rice was equally breathless about the continent's future. "There is a new interest in individual freedom and a movement away from repressive, one-party systems," she said. "It is with this new generation of Africans that we seek a dynamic, long-term partnership for the 21st century."

Her optimism was misplaced. In the 14 years since, many of these leaders have tried on the strongman's cloak and found that it fit nicely. Mr. Meles dismantled the rule of law, silenced political opponents and forged a single-party state. Mr. Isaias, Mr. Kagame and Mr. Museveni cling to their autocratic power. Only Mr. Rawlings and Mr. Mbeki left office willingly.

Ms. Rice's enthusiasm for these leaders might have blinded her to some of their more questionable activities. Critics, including Howard W. French, a former correspondent for The New York Times, say that in the late 1990s, Ms. Rice tacitly approved of an invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo that was orchestrated by Mr. Kagame of Rwanda and supported by Mr. Museveni of Uganda. In The New York Review of Books in 2009, Mr. French reported that witnesses had heard Ms. Rice describe the two men as the best insurance against genocide in the region. "They know how to deal with that," he reported her as having said. "The only thing we have to do is look the other way." Ms. Rice has denied supporting the invasion.

More recently, according to Jason K. Stearns, a scholar of the region, Ms. Rice temporarily blocked a United Nations report documenting Rwanda's support for the M23 rebel group now operating in eastern Congo, and later moved to delete language critical of Rwanda and Uganda from a Security Council resolution. "According to former colleagues, she feels that more can be achieved by constructive engagement, not public censure," Mr. Stearns wrote recently on Foreign Policy's Web site.

Ms. Rice's relationship with Mr. Meles — which dates from 1998, when she was a mediator in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to prevent war between Eritrea and Ethiopia — also calls her judgment into question.

In fairness, in her eulogy, Ms. Rice said she differed with Mr. Meles on questions like democracy and human rights. But if so, the message did not get through; under Mr. Meles during the past 15 years, democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia steadily deteriorated. Ethiopia imprisoned dissidents and journalists, used food aid as a political tool, appropriated vast sections of land from its citizens and prevented the United Nations from demarcating its border with Eritrea.

Meanwhile, across multiple administrations, the United States has favored Ethiopia as an ally and a perceived bulwark against extremism in the region. In 2012 the nation received $580 million in American foreign aid.

Eritrea is no innocent. It has closed itself off, stifled dissent and forced its young people to choose between endless military service at home and seeking asylum abroad. But I believe that the Security Council, with Ms. Rice's support, went too far in imposing sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 for supporting extremists.

President Obama has visited sub-Saharan Africa just once in his first term — a brief stop in Ghana. One signal that he plans to focus more on Africa — and on human rights and democracy, not only economic development and geopolitics — in his next term would be to nominate someone other than Susan Rice as America's top diplomat.

Salem Solomon is an Eritrean-American journalist who runs Africa Talks, a news and opinion Web site covering Africa and the global African diaspora.



African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings, by Meles Zenawi. Unpublished Masters Dissertation: Erasmus University, Rotterdam, no date.

Alex de Waal*

African Affairs, London, December 5,

In the months following his death on 20 August, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been eulogized and demonized in equal measure. But his policies, and the transformational paradigm on which they were based, have rarely been elucidated. While alive, Meles was equally indifferent to praise and blame. To those who acclaimed Ethiopia's remarkable economic growth, he would ask, do they understand that his policies completely contradicted the neo-liberal Washington Consensus? To those who condemned his measures against the political opposition and civil society organizations, he demanded to know how they would define democracy and seek a feasible path to it, in a political economy dominated by patronage and rent seeking?

Meles did not hide his views, but neither did he ever fully present his theory of the 'democratic developmental state' to an international audience. Over nearly 25 years, I was fortunate to be able to discuss political economy with him regularly, including critiquing his incomplete and unpublished master's dissertation. During this time, his thinking evolved, but his basic principles and sensibilities remained constant.

World leaders have lauded Meles' economic achievements without acknowledging their theoretical basis. Human rights organizations have decried his political record as though he were a routine despot with no agenda other than hanging on to power. Reviewing his writings on the developmental state, this essay shows the unity of his theory and practice.

Meles had the quiet certitude of someone who had been tested – and seen his people tested – to the limit. Along with his comrades in arms in the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), he had looked into the abyss of collective destruction, and his career was coloured by the knowledge that Ethiopia could still go over that precipice.

Many times during sixteen years of armed struggle in the mountains of northern Ethiopia against the then-military regime led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, Meles had close personal brushes with death. In 1988, he and other central committee members avoided a likely-fatal aerial bombing by just twenty minutes after their hideout was betrayed by a spy and Ethiopian fighter-bombers targeted it. Later that year, he was taken gravely ill with malaria and was evacuated to hospital in Khartoum – one of the very few times he left the field during the entire armed struggle.

As Meles crossed the border back into Ethiopia, I met him for the first time, and we began the first of our seminars on political economy. As dusk fell, still recuperating in his pyjamas, Comrade Meles climbed aboard a creaky Soviet Zil truck, captured from the Ethiopian army. All travel was at night, to avoid the MiGs, and we bumped our way along rocky tracks, first through the forested lowlands, camping out during daylight hours under trees next to a dry riverbed. Such was the itinerant life of the TPLF leadership. The next night our truck rumbled up a road cut through the mountainside by the guerrillas, with hairpins so tight that our truck had to make three-point turns. We spent the next day in caves at the TPLF's temporary headquarters in a mountain called Dejena, and the next nightfall I watched as an apparently uninhabited hillside gave forth a battalion of men, a dozen trucks and a tank, all of them completely obscured by camouflage until that moment. The TPLF had turned concealment into science.

The discomfort of the journey was less memorable than the travelling discussion group of Comrade Meles, Comrade Seyoum (head of TPLF foreign relations and later Ethiopia's longest-serving Foreign Minister), a dozen fighters, a representative from a European agricultural assistance agency, and myself. I learned quickly that the most necessary attribute of a guerrilla fighter is functioning without sleep. Meles was a voracious consumer of information and analysis, and a tireless questioner. We discussed perestroika in the USSR, theories of people's liberation warfare, the imperfections of grain markets, and, above all, peasant survival strategies during drought. At one point we met a hunter on the track and Meles spent an hour discussing with him the importance of conserving endangered species.

Meles was a convinced Marxist-Leninist, pragmatic but certain that the way of life of the Ethiopian peasants had to change or die. Having just completed my doctoral dissertation on famine survival strategies in Sudan, I tried to convince him that rural people were best served by diversified livelihoods, and that pastoral nomadism was an effective adaptation to the vagaries of life in a drought-prone ecosystem. He did his best to convince me that traditional livelihoods were doomed to stagnation and that Ethiopian peasants had to specialize in farming, trade, or livestock rearing.

The abiding impression left by Meles and the TPLF leadership was that their theory and practice were deeply rooted in the realities of Ethiopia, and that they would succeed or fail on their terms and no others. The TPLF had convinced the people, and that was all that mattered. They did not measure their record or their policies against external standards; on the contrary, they evaluated outside precepts against their own experience and logic. It was a refreshing, even inspiring, dose of intellectual self-reliance.

Meles was unflinchingly optimistic about the prospects for the armed struggle and assured me that the Tigrayan guerrillas, until a few months previously confined to the hills and the borderlands with Sudan, would penetrate as far south as Shewa, the Amhara heartland just a hundred miles from the capital Addis Ababa, within a year. I did not take his promise seriously (neither did any other non-Ethiopian). But he was correct, and within two and a half years, the TPLF – now a member of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition – achieved the remarkable feat of capturing the capital city.

The EPRDF took Addis Ababa on 28 May 1991, amid international predictions that Ethiopia would go the way of Somalia, where guerrillas had overrun Mogadishu just four months earlier. On 31 May, government salaries and pensions were due. They were paid on time. Police were back on the street within days.

During the next 21 years, Meles often looked as though he was camping out in the palace. He moved into his predecessor's semi-subterranean bunker home in the sprawling grounds of the old palace of the Emperor Menelik, and took over Mengistu's spacious but damp modernist executive office. The artwork scarcely changed over the next two decades, the carpets just once. Meles was not interested in the trappings of power, only in what could be done with it.

From the outset, what needed to be done was to conquer poverty. From his early days in the field through to his last years as an international statesman, Meles was absolutely consistent in this aim. Ethiopia's overriding national challenge was to end poverty, and in turn this needed a comprehensive, theoretically rigorous practice of development. Marxism-Leninism was, for him, not a dogma but a rigorous method for assembling evidence and argument, to be bent to the realities of armed struggle and development. When the TPLF first administered 'liberated' territories in the 1970s, it took a conventional leftist line, tried to regulate trade and moneylending, and failed. The Front responded by adjusting its policies to encourage the local petit bourgeoisie in the villages and small towns it controlled. When the great famine of 1984–5 struck, the TPLF took the strategic decision to make feeding the peasantry its priority, even at the expense of losing ground to the enemy.

Meles was primus inter pares in the EPRDF's collective leadership and chief economic theoretician. In an episode made famous by Joseph Stiglitz,1 Meles objected to the IMF position that international assistance was too unpredictable to be incorporated into national budget planning purposes, with the absurd consequence that national spending on infrastructure, health, and education could not be increased in line with foreign aid flows. Meles produced arguments and data and forced the Bretton Woods Institutions to rethink.

Meles inverted Kissinger's dictum that holding office consumes intellectual capital rather than creating it. He was always learning, reading, debating, and writing, and while he never abandoned the fundamental principles forged in the field, his views evolved greatly. After 1991, he studied for a degree in Business Administration at the Open University (graduating first in his class) and subsequently a Masters in Economics at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, under the supervision of the former Minister of Development Cooperation, Jan Pronk. He never finished his thesis due to the outbreak of war with Eritrea in 1998, but the draft manuscript, 'African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings', was the justification and blueprint for a 'democratic developmental state'. Excerpts are available online with the intriguing disclaimer: 'The author is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Government.'2 Some of his analysis is also contained in a chapter in a recent collection edited by Akbar Noman and others.3

The war with Eritrea not only interrupted Meles' studies but provoked the most bitter dissension within the EPRDF. Meles was accused of having been soft on Eritrea and blind to Eritrean preparations for war, and subsequently for stopping the war once Ethiopia had expelled the invader from occupied territory. The internal party debate then took an ideological turn that seems to outsiders to be oddly anachronistic, replete with references to Bonapartism and the 'Kulak line'. Meles clearly stated that there should be no confusion that the EPRDF's mission was to build a capitalist state. He further stated that rent seeking and patronage within the ruling party posed the key dangers to this objective, and they needed to be thoroughly stamped out. Meles' adversaries accused him of selling his revolutionary soul to imperialism and serving Eritrea at the expense of Ethiopia. Meles won by the skin of his teeth – just two votes in the Central Committee of the TPLF. His rivals then walked out and Meles seized the moment to consolidate his power. The next decade was to be his chance both to hone and to implement his theory of 'democratic developmentalism'.

One may disagree with Meles' thesis or argue that he failed to implement it properly. But without question it represents a serious attempt to develop, and apply, an authentically African philosophy of the goals and strategies of development.

He explained the background to me. 'For the first ten years after we took over,' he said, 'we were bewildered by the changes. The New World Order was very visible and especially so in this part of the world. The prospect of an independent line appeared very bleak. So we fought a rearguard action not to privatize too much.'4

Meles was doubly constrained: internally the EPRDF was regressing, rehearsing its rhetoric but practising what Meles came to dub pervasive 'socially wasteful rent seeking.'5 But after emerging from the fractious debates of 2000–1, Meles had the upper hand, at the same time as international thinking shifted away from the neo-liberal demand for a non-interventionist 'night-watchman' state towards recognizing the need for a capable state to lead development. Meles agreed with the neo-liberals that the 'predatory state' of Africa's first post-colonial decades was one dead end, but argued that allowing the market to rule was a second dead end. 'You cannot change a rent-seeking political economy just by reducing the size and role of the state. The neo-liberal paradigm does not allow for technological capacity accumulation, which lies at the heart of development. For that, an activist state is needed, that will allocate state rents in a productive manner.'6

South Korea and Taiwan were Meles' favourite examples of developmental states that succeeded by subverting neo-liberal dogma. China's rise provided something else: by challenging American dominance it made space for alternatives. In his thesis he wrote, 'there has to be more political space for experimentation in development policy than has been the case so far in Africa … The international community has a role in creating such a space by tolerating development paradigms that are different from the orthodoxy preached by it. Africans have to demand and create such a space' (p. 39).

Meles' starting point was that Ethiopia (and indeed Africa as a whole) lacked comparative advantage in any productive field. He laid out his case in one discussion we held.7 'African workers produce textiles at nine times the price of the Chinese.' Similarly, African foodstuffs could not compete in international markets. 'In these circumstances, the best way to make money is through rent: natural resource rent, aid rent, policy rent. So the private sector will be rent-seeking not value creating, it will go for the easy way and make money through rent.'8 In reaction to this, Ethiopia postponed private land ownership and kept state control of the financial sector and telecoms.

The argument continued, 'If the state guides the private sector, there is a possibility of shifting to value creation – it needs state action to lead the private sector from its preference (rent seeking) to its long-term interest (value creation). So the state needs autonomy.'9 The government should choose when and how to partner with the private sector (an example was developing Ethiopia's leather industry) and should invest in education and research.

Meles clearly identified the challenge of development as primarily a political one: it is necessary to master the technicalities of economics, but essential not to let them become a dogma that masters you. It is the politics of the state that unlocks development.

The 'developmental state' should, he argued, be obsessed with value creation, making accelerated and broad-based growth a matter of national survival. If Ethiopia could sustain its growth levels – which have been running at close to 10 percent per annum for most of the last decade – it could achieve middle-income status and escape from its trap. To succeed in this, a third element was needed, namely the hegemony of developmental discourse, in the Gramscian sense that it is an internalized set of assumptions, not an imposed order. Meles liked to give the example of corrupt customs officials in Taiwan, who exacted bribes worth 12 percent of the value of imports of consumer goods, while not demanding bribes on imported capital goods, illustrating how value creation had been internalized in this way – so that even the thieves followed the norm.

African countries might have the trappings of human rights and democracy, but, he said, 'there is no sustainable democracy in a society characterized by pervasive rent seeking. We need value creation to be dominant for there to be a foundation of democracy, for politics to be more than a zero sum game, a competition to control state rents.' Worse, he added, 'I am convinced that we will cease to exist as a nation unless we grow fast and share our growth.'10

Thus far, I found Meles' case compelling, though I questioned if it were possible to create a common mindset of value creation in a country as vast and diverse as Ethiopia, in such a short period. Was there not a danger that a theory, however sophisticated, would degenerate into a set of dogmas parroted by party cadres who scarcely understood the meaning of 'pervasive rent seeking' but who knew the rewards of loyally following the party line? Meles' response was that the EPRDF had indeed neglected political education and party organization for years, which explained the 2000–1 internal crisis and the poor performance in the 2005 elections, including being wiped out in the major cities. But, he argued, a new generation of leaders was emerging, he was renewing the party at all levels, and, above all, his policies were delivering results. Ethiopians had never, ever, experienced anything like the recent economic growth and the spectacular expansion in infrastructure and services – and this, he said, would transform the country in the next fifteen years.

Included in Meles' paradigm was a theory of democracy. He writes, 'Even if a developmental state was to be solely concerned about accelerating growth, it would have to build the high social capital that is vital for its endeavours. It would have to stamp out patronage and rent seeking. These are the very same things that create the basis for democratic politics that is relatively free from patronage' (p. 10).

Meles condemned liberal formulae as 'trickle-up democracy' and said that, in a poor developing nation, political parties and NGOs would easily become patronage mechanisms, rather than the basis for a true associational political culture and sustainable development. He feared a 'no-choice democracy' in which factions contested for which one could best loot the state.

Developmental states could come in several forms, Meles argued, provided that they maintained the hegemony of value creation, were autonomous from the private sector, stamped out rent seeking and patronage, and maintained policy continuity for sufficiently long to succeed. A developmental state could be authoritarian, but in Africa's ethnically diverse societies, democratic legitimacy was a sine qua non. Ethiopia's ethnic federalism and decentralization reflected this. Meles said his preference was to have two competing parties, each of which stood for developmental values, but in their absence the option would be a stable dominant party or dominant coalition, such as Japan or Sweden enjoyed in post-war decades. In the Ethiopian case, he wrote, 'the peasant is the bedrock of a stable developmental coalition'. His critics said this denied them the chance of voting for real alternatives.

Hence, Meles' approach to democracy and human rights was all of a piece with his overall theory. He said, 'when [the developmental state] has done its job it will undermine its own social base, to be replaced by a social democratic or liberal democratic coalition'. Meanwhile, he argued, what meaning did liberal civil and political rights have in a context of abject poverty or political chaos? Development and a strong state were prerequisites for human rights, and Ethiopia needed to establish these first. Justifiable or not, this is a serious argument that deserves serious assessment.

In early 2011, I asked Meles why he had been so reticent about his theory. He replied that he should not jeopardize Ethiopia's interests by pursuing a personal intellectual agenda that would be sure to draw fire from his numerous critics and detractors. However, he added that his ideas, which had been heretical just a few years earlier, were becoming common currency, and that as the time approached for him to leave office at the 2015 elections, he planned to update his dissertation and publish it.11

Almost 25 years ago, Meles was indifferent to opinion and argument that failed to match his own standards, and was quietly confident that Ethiopians would shape their own history, and that history would prove him right. Recently, when I asked Meles what he would consider his legacy, he was uninterested in those who hailed his government as triumph or disaster, and addressed only the question of whether developmentalism was becoming hegemonic in Ethiopia.12 It would be another decade, he said, before that question could be answered. Meles also said that the intellectual work of articulating the theoretical grounding of his politics, and extending that analysis to what he called the 'archetypal' African state, characterized by a vigorous political marketplace, was just beginning. Enough of Meles' writings are in the public sphere to demonstrate that Meles was a truly original thinker. Let us hope that his unpublished papers provide sufficient material to fill out the other, less explored, areas of his intellectual inquiries.  


  • 1. Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (Norton, New York, NY, 2002), pp. 27–30.
  • 2. <http://cgt.columbia.edu/files/conferences/Zenawi_Dead_Ends_and_New_Beginnings.pdf>(23 October 2012).
  • 3. Meles Zenawi, 'State and markets: neoliberal limitations and the case for a developmental state' in Akbar Noman, Kwesi Botchwey, Howard Stein, and Joseph Stiglitz (eds), Good Growth and Governance in Africa: Rethinking development strategies (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012).
  • 4. Discussion, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister's Office, Addis Ababa, 16 October 2010.
  • 5. Zenawi, 'States and markets,' p. 169.
  • 6. Discussion, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister's Office, Addis Ababa, 26 February 2011.
  • 7. Discussion, Zenawi, 16 October 2010.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Discussion, Meles Zenawi, Prime Ministers Office, Addis Ababa, 17 October 2008.
  • 11. Discussion, Zenawi, 26 February 2011.
  • 12. Ibid.


























*Alex de Waal (Alex.DeWaal@tufts.edu) is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Conversation with Alemayehu Fentaw on Latest Developments in Ethiopian Politics



Jawar Mohammed: The constitutionality of the creation of three Deputy Prime Ministers has been questioned. Is there a constitutional violation at all, if so whats violated?

The Constitution doesn't envision multiple Deputy Prime Ministers. Rather, the Constitution provides for a single, undivided, post of the Deputy Prime Minister in the same way as it does in respect of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister can't, on his own, create ministerial posts or executive offices. He's invested with the power of filling executive offices by appointment as long as the nominees are endorsed by parliament, but he can't create executive offices. This is evident even from a cursory perusal of Articles 75 and 74(2) of the Constitution. My reading of the letter and spirit of the Constitution is that the post of the Deputy Prime Minister is as undivided and singular as that of the Prime Minister. The present appointments are clearly unconstitutional. However, In Ethiopia, if the needs of the Executive come into conflict with the Constitution, too bad for the Constitution.

Art. 77(2) stipulates that "It shall decide on the organizational structure of ministries and other organs of government responsible to it; it shall coordinate their activities and provide leadership."

As can be gathered from this provision, this is what the Council of Ministers can do, not the PM alone. Besides, what the CoM can do is to pass a "decision", not to enact a proclamation, as to the organizational structure of ministries." Even to "decide on the organizational structure of ministries" does not mean to create additional ministerial offices or posts only by a fiat decision of the CoM.

That such powers are invested not with the CoM, but with the HoPR should be clear from Art.76(3), which stipulates that "In all its decisions, the Council of Ministers is responsible to the House of Peoples' Representatives." It only states that the Executive has the power to "decide" on the issue under consideration. This does only mean that it has to submit its decision on the organization of the structure of the ministries to the House for approval. It becomes evident this article is about the power to change the internal structure of existing ministries, but not about creating additional ministerial posts. To reiterate, this can only be done first by amending the part of the Constitution that provides, in no ambiguous words, for a singular and undivided office of the deputy prime minister. Besides, even when approved by the HoF, it has to be issued in the form of a proclamation, not even a regulation, to amend the existing proclamation for the establishment and definition of powers of the Executive. Even such proclamations cannot amend the Constitution. This is called "hierarchy of laws." I guess this is the part they missed in their training at Civil Service College.

The alternative contention that the two additional appointees are not deputy prime ministers, even if they hold such a rank also flies in the face of the reality on the ground. If not deputy prime ministers, then what are they? I am sure you won't say "coordinators," "managers," or "advisors"

This poses a very serious problem to accountability. You know, accountability is a cardinal constitutional principle and it saddens me to see that defenders of the current appointments missed out on its salience. Now the question is: Who are they accountable to, as distinct from Demeke Mekonnen, who is accountable to the PM? In other words, if there's only one Deputy Prime Minister in the person of Demeke Mekonnen, then who are the additional two deputy prime ministers accountable to? You won't tell us that they are accountable to Demeke Mekonnen as he is only the first among equals (primus inter pares).


Another, but related issue has to do with succession. As Eng. Mekonnen Kassa put it, "God forbid, if the current PM Hailemariam were to pass, who would be in line to become Acting/Interim PM?" In other words, would they promote all three of them on a fast-track to premiership? The impression that the present appointments and the whole unfolding political drama gives me is that this body politic called Ethiopia is being run as if it were in a state of emergency. So sad. I wished it to be rooted in a solid ground, unshakable, stably anchored in a constitution and constitutionalism. This is lamentable!

Jawar Mohammed: If there is a need for three deputy Prime Ministers, what process should be followed and who is constitutionally empowered to do so?

The procedure of constitutional amendment set out in the Constitution itself must be strictly followed. First a proposal for amendment has to be initiated. According to Article 104 of the Constitution, "Any proposal for constitutional amendment, if supported by two-thirds majority vote in the House of Peoples' Representatives, or by a two-thirds majority vote in the House of the Federation or when one-third of the State Councils of the member States of the Federation, by a majority vote in each Council have supported it, shall be submitted for discussion and decision to the general public and to those whom the amendment of the Constitution concerns." Second, the proposed amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of the House of Peoples' Representatives and the House of the Federation, in a joint session, and when two-thirds of the State Councils approve the proposed amendment by majority votes. (Art. 105(2))

Jawar Mohammed: One explanation from the government' side is that ' there are no three deputies but one. The other two are just ministers with the Rank of Deputy PM"? Does that help the government go around the constitutional dilemma?


No, you can't get away with such kind of poorly-reasoned-out arguments. That started out with Bereket Simon scoffing at rumors about such possibilities. Now, some people are quick at recycling what they were fed by the state media. They tell you that these are only "coordinators" of sorts with the rank of deputy prime minister for reasons best known to themselves. Others, out of ignorance or ill-education, tell you that the Prime Minister can legitimately create ministerial offices or posts acting through the Council of Ministers. A typical reasoning of a Civil Service College pedigree was offered by Sisay Mengistie, who contends "The PM using Council of Ministers can create offices (See Art. 77(2)) and to me still there is no more than one Deputy Prime Minister rather with rank of Deputy Prime Minister."


I've tried to show at great length that the latest moves fail the test of constitutionality above. But, to reiterate, simply, appointing more ministers than is required by the constitution is unconstitutional. Neither more nor less.

Jawar Mohammed: Following Meles' death military officers were promoted without a seating PM, confirmation of the new PM was delayed for a month and now three deputies are created--each of these action have raised constitutional questions. What does the action taken by the party tell us about the state of the constitution in the contemporary Ethiopian politics?

I'd call that a silent coup d'état. The question of succession was decided then and there by the body that endorsed the promotions, even where there was no one to assume the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief. That was by far the most decisive appointment ever made during the period of succession. The addition of 37 Generals, most of whom from the TPLF, to the top brass radically transforms the nature of the defense forces. The party within the EPRDF coalition that overwhelms the chain of command of the defense forces decides Ethiopia's fate.

Recall that the promotions were sort of rushed, given that a prime minister, who, ex officio is also the commander-in-chief of the defense forces, had not yet been sworn in. Besides, it was not clear whether Hailemariam Desalegn was the acting Prime Minister, because he was still the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. He couldn't be all at once. You can say there's collective leadership, but that is not the sort of leadership we want to see in Ethiopia. Collective leadership is a relic of communism. Moreover, the process in which the promotions were made lacks in transparency. As you know, accountability and transparency are two much talked about principles of governance in Ethiopia, which, however, are missing in action.

It is common knowledge that EPRDF launched a program of generational change(aka Metekakat) within the ranks of its leadership in 2009. A point I believe was pioneered by none other than Tefera Walwa, but parroted by the late Meles Zenawi. That program extended its reach to the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) in 2010 with a view to replacing 561 high-ranking officers. Leaving the current promotions aside, until 2011, 13 Generals and 303 Colonels had been replaced. The launch of this program also aimed at promoting the equitable representation of the country's diverse ethnic groups in the ENDF's top brass. This point was emphasized by Siraj Fegessa, the Defense Minister, who said that an affirmative action will be put in place to enhance the ethnic composition of the army.

How is changing the ethnic composition of the top brass of the defense forces at such a critical stage as in during the extended absence of a Prime Minister, in the history of a country where ethnicity is politically not only salient, but decisive, different from a coup? It's an outright reversal of the "metekakat" program, if not a coup?

This coupled with the current appointments of Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) and Tewodros Adhanom (PhD), both of them from TPLF, to the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister respectively, sealed the succession chapter in favor of TPLF at least until 2015, if we can hope against hope.

What the whole history of Ethiopia's constitutional development since its adoption in 1994 tells us is just one thing. If constitutions are meant to guarantee checks on political power and ensure the rights of citizens, Ethiopia's is a spectacularly unconstitutional constitution. It's a long story and it's even too stupid to try to explain that.


Jawar Mohammed: Before winding up our conversation, a general observation you want to make regarding homeland politics:

The EPRDFites succumb to self-delusion in entertaining the idea that economic development is all that matters whilst the oppositionists suffer from self-deception in engaging in reluctance to give credit to improvements under EPRDF.

The oppositionists engage in self-delusion in thinking that EPRDF is entirely unpatriotic whereas EPRDF engages in self-deception in characterizing the pan-Ethiopian oppositionists as chauvinist Amhara nationalists and the Oromos as narrow ethnicists.

A refreshed cabinet!

By Kirubel Tadesse, Capital

Tuesday, 04 December 2012


Three Deputy Prime Ministers New top diplomat Embattled and fired minister


Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Thursday promoted two more ministers to double as Deputy Prime Ministers while swapping and firing others, a move that drastically reshaped the country's top executive branch.


Named both the ruling party chair and Prime Minister following the sudden death of Meles Zenawi in August, Hailemariam for months worked with the cabinet he inherited from his successor, until the reshuffle earlier this week. Three deputies, three sectors A first for the country, Thursday's parliamentery session approved the request of PM Hailemariam to have three Deputies.


In a move seen by analysts as made to give the cabinet an ethnic balance, Muktar Kedir from Oromia, and Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) from Tigray are now both Deputy Prime Ministers. The two share the post with Education Minister Demeke Mekonnen, who was appointed back in September representing the ruling party's Amhara wing.


Some legal experts are questioning the constitutionality of having more than one deputy prime minister. The Constitution doesn't envision multiple Deputy Prime Ministers. Rather, the Constitution provides for a single, undivided, post of the Deputy Prime Minister in the same way it does in respect to the Prime Minister," says Alemayehu Fentaw, Horn of Africa specialist at the University of Texas. Alemayehu, who has taught law in Ethiopia, argues that the latest appointments have breached the Constitution.


PM Hailemariam, who did not face such critics during Thursday's session, said each of his three deputies will have distinct responsibilities, leading different sectors. He told lawmakers the move would improve leadership in the federal government. It also allows the Prime Minister to focus on development projects and defense, say senior ruling party officials. While some ministries would remain under the direct oversight of the Prime Minister's office, others will be grouped in clusters to be headed by the deputies.


Demeke is expected to spearhead the social sector and relevant ministries. Debretsion and Muktar are heading the finance and economic and good-governance reform clusters respectively. Debretsion will also remain as Minister of Communication and Information Technology, a position he has held since 2010.

Muktar was serving as head of the PM's Office and Cabinet Affairs Minister, a position expected to be filled in the coming weeks.


Embattled and now fired

The new Deputy Prime Minister Muktar Kedir also replaced the embattled Junedin Sado, as the Civil Service Minister. Junedin held a number of cabinet positions over the years, including Transport and Communication and Science and Technology ministerial posts. He has always been favored by Meles in the past for similar appointments and reshuffles. His apparent demotion comes amid terrorism charges against his wife. Federal prosecutors say the Minister's wife, Habiba Mohammed, has been coordinating finance for a group they say was trying to establish an Islamic State and undermine the country's secular constitution. Police said Habiba was 'caught red handed' leaving the Saudi Arabian embassy in Addis Ababa with 50,000 birr intended to fund the alleged plot. Habiba strongly denied the charges. Junedin, in a letter he sent to local papers, came to her defense, stating that the money was going to support a mosque their family is building. Police have rejected the Minister's claims and the case is currently before a federal high court. Junedin was similarly demoted from the party's top leadership before being removed from the cabinet. He has also been removed from chairing the board of directors of Addis Ababa University. Federation House Speaker Kassa Teklebirhan has replaced him as the AAU's new board chairperson.


A new top diplomat

In another reshuffle, Health Minister Tedros Adhanom (PhD), was moved from his post to become a Foreign Affairs Minister. The position has remained vacant since August when Hailemariam became PM.


While many expected State Minister Berhane Gebrekirstos to rise in the ranks and become a full Minister, Hailemaraim surprised pundits by appointing Tedros to lead the country's diplomacy. Over the past seven years when he served as Health Minister, Tedros was a celebrated public servant even among ruling party critics. He was hailed for boosting health care services across the country which significantly reduced HIV/AIDS and Malaria related deaths. His educational background is also in the health sector. He holds a doctorate in Community Health from the University of Nottingham as well as a Masters in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the University of London. He completed his undergraduate studies in Biology at Asmara University in 1986.


The decision to remove him from his successful stint in the health sector not only came as a surprise but was not favored by many who saw it as a mere political deal among contesting ruling party elites.


Tedros' deputy Dr. Kesetebirhan Admassu has been promoted to become Health Minister.


Kebede Chane is officially the Trade Minister, a position he held for months without the approval of the house after his predecessor was fired by Meles.


All of the five appointees were sworn in by Tegene Getaneh, President of the Federal Supreme Court after the house voted in approval.


The PM's office, which needs a new head itself, is expected to appoint new state ministers for Trade and Health.