Assefa A. Lemu 11-12-19
The book titled “Medemer” and written by Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy was launched on October 19, 2019 at a Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa (Finfinne). At a launching ceremony, the Author and Prime Minster of Ethiopia Dr. Abiy Ahmed cut a cake baked by the Government owned Hotel and Tourism Training Institute under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The ceremony was also streamed live on the Government owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation’s TV channel. I hope the cost of the cake and other costs of the launching ceremony were not paid from public funds because Medemer condemns “tie wearing thieves in government offices” who use public resources for their personal benefits and take bribes. I also hope that neither public resources were used for the publication and distributions of the book nor gifts were accepted under the cover of “sponsor” for these purposes because corruption is one of the redlines of Medemer.
The proceeds from the sale of the book is said be used for the expansion of education in rural Ethiopia and I hope there are many Authors, including myself, who are willing to donate their books for such social development purposes if they get similar support, coverage, and publicity because the aim of some of the Authors is to share ideas more than getting income from the sale of their books. According to Dr. Abiy, Medemer was written to save Ethiopia from vanishing. In fact, it is not surprising to hear politicians saying they did this and that for the benefit of the people.The former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Dessalegn who failed to govern the cuntry and forced to resign told us that he resigned for the benefit of Ethiopian peoples. President Evo Morales of Bolivia who was forced to resign also claimed that he resigned for the benefit of the Bolvian people.
On the launching ceremony, Dr. Abiy disclosed that he has four published books under the pen name of “DRAZ” and Medemer is his fifth published book and the first book published under his real name. Writing a book by politicians to win election or to stay in power is not a new thing. Last year, in 2018, one of Madagascar’s multi-millionaire and politician Andry Rajoelina wrote a book which has 271 pages and titled “Initiative pour l’Emergence de Madagascar” (Initiative for the Emergence of Madagascar (IEM)) in which he outlined his political and campaign programs. He used his money and IEM to win Madagascar’s 2018 Presidential electionand became the President of Madagascar in January 2019. IEM was Rajoelina’sand hisparty’s (TanoramalaGasy Vonona(TGV)or Young Malagasies Determined) vision written with the help of international and national experts to seek a concrete solution for Madagascar's development (https://www.dw.com/en/andry-rajoelina-plans-political-comeback-in-madagascar/a-44984197). Unlike IEM, Medemer is said to be a philosophy and written by one man for sale like anyother books.
In his October 29, 2019 article written in Amharic and titled “ካለንበት ወዴት?”,Major Dawit Woldegiorgis listed some of African leaders who wrote a book and claimed that they are philosophers and teachers of political philosophy (https://www.ethiopanorama.com/?p=110443&lang=en). His list includes Muammar Gaddafi of Libya who wrote a book titled “Direct Democracy”,Yahya Jammeh of Gambia who wrote a book titled “Patriotic Reorientation and Construction”, and Mobutu SeseSeko of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) who wrote a book titled “Authenticite”. These African leaders“followed” Plato’s advice in which he said the best form of government is that which is ruledby “philosopher king”; thus the kings (the rulers) should become philosophers or that philosophers should become kings (rulers).
In his Medemer book launching speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM72u1oI53Q) Prime Minister Dr. Abiy invited comments and critiques on the book. This makes him different from the rest of “African philosopher kings” and may be help to save Ethiopia from becoming another Libiya or another D. R. Congo. This review/comment is in response to Dr. Abiy’s invitation to offer comments and critiques. In addition, Dr. Abiy said that the contest for the next Ethiopian election will be based on the written and bounded ideas. Therefore, we need to carefully evaluate the ideas which are written and bounded and presented to us by our politicians so that we will be able to differentiate those who stand for our interest from those who try to cheat us.
In contract law, there is a principle which says, when a government enters into business contract, it loses its sovereignty status and becomes no different than a mere private corporation or individual. In other words, when the government enters into a contract to do business with a private firm or individual, it lays down its sovereignty and takes the character and status of a private citizen. In such a case, the sovereign government and non-sovereign firm or individual are treated equally. As a private citizen, I thank Dr. Abiy Ahmed for publishing a book under his name and inviting us to critique it because this shows his willingness to be treated as a private citizen in relation to his book called Medemer. His descending to the level of a mere private citizen encourages us to provide our frank opinion on the book without fear of repercussion from his government.
The Medemer book was published in September 2019 and has 280 pages divided in four parts and sixteen chapters. Even though the book was written in Amharic and Afan Oromo languages, the version which was officially launched at the presence of the Author is the Amharic version. Therefore, this review is based on the version which is considered by the Author as an “official” version.
Medemer is defined differently by different individuals and groups. Some say,Medemer means “unity”, “togetherness”, “reconciliation”, “synergy”, “synthesis”, “consolidation”, “combination”, or “cooperation”,but others say it is “putting everyone in one melting pot to create homogeneous society out of heterogeneous society”, “unitary”, “elimination of identity and diversity by the means of aggregation”, “domination through combination or expansion”, “clustering”, “bundling”, “merging”, or “cannibalization”.The Author defined Medemer by referring to three Amharic dictionaries as “coming together”, “to be combined”, “to be accumulated”, “to stand together”. He also said Medemer is “an idea” (example on pages, II, IV, V, 35, 42, 44), “a framework” (example on page iv), “a philosophy” (example on pages III,4,49, 73), “an outlook” (example on page 4). However, since the Author repeatedly said Medemer is “a philosophy”, I would like to consider Medemer as a philosophy.
It should be noted that Medemer (addition) is not only about increase, but also about decrease. For example, +6 + (+4) = 6 + 4 = 10 and shows increase. However, +6+ (-4) = 6 - 4 = 2 and shows decrease. In other words, the addition of numbers with like signs leads to an increase and the addition of numbers with unlike signs leads to decrease. Therefore, when we do addition, we must know the natures (signs) of what we are adding together because our addition may result in negative, rather than positive.
In terms of form, except for not including the titles of the four parts of the book into the tables of contents and not correcting a word in line three, paragraph one, on page IV, the Medemer book looks well proof read. I will offer my review of its contents under each chapter so that the readers can go to the relevant chapter and evaluate the reasonableness of my comments. Since the book has four parts, not to bore the readers, I would like to make my review in four parts. Here is the review of Part One of Medemer.
In the acknowledgement section, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed, herein after the Author, thanked his friends, coworkers, and comrades who accepted the idea of Medemer and helped him to develop it.
Preface (Pages I-V)
The Author opened the preface with a saying in Afan Oromo but written in Sabean/ Ge’ez / Amharic alphabet: “Bashasha, olmaafigaliinbilasha”. He translated this Afan Oromo saying to Amharic and the Amharic meaning shows that what he wanted to say is “Bashasha, olmaafigallibilasha” meaning “in Bashashayou can spend a day and return home without incurring cost”. “Galii” and “galli” have two different meanings. The first one means “income” or “revenue” and the second one means “going back home”. Therefore, the AfanOromo saying written in Sabean alphabet about Bashasha doesn’t convey the message the Author wanted to convey. This is a simple example that shows why Sabean (Amharic) alphabet doesn’t suit for writing Afan Oromo. I hope Medemer philosophy understands this fact and will not ask Oromo to abandon QubeAfan Oromo to proof that they are “added”.
In this section, the Author told the reader that Medemer was with him since he started thinking about life and grew with him. I wish he also told us how Medemer and his aspiration to be the seventh king of Ethiopia grew side by side with him without contradicting each other. He said the two contributors to Medemer idea are Ethiopian values and the law of nature. I wish also he listed these Ethiopian values which are different from the values of non-Ethiopians and contributed to Medemer philosophy. He said, Medemer idea took the shape of philosophy after he made it part of leadership value and institutional building in the institutions he worked as an employee. He believes that Medemer offers key solutions for Ethiopia’s key problems. He argues that there is no problem that Medemer can’t solve. Congratulations to Ethiopia! He says, in Ethiopian history, the successes achieved including the victory of Adwa were the results of Medemer. Based on this statement, one can say that Medemer is not a new idea, but existed even before the Author was born.
In addition to expressing Medemer as a concept which he said grew to be a philosophy, the Author presented it as a framework in which he compiled alternative solutions to overcome political, economic, and social problems and which can bring changes in leaps and bounds. The Author explained that he developed the Medemer idea based on his previous research works and papers. He also tried to give authoritative power to the ideas in the Medemer book by saying “as a leader who has an interest to plan the current and future goals of the country, I present this Medemer idea as a key solution to the problems of the country….”(page V).
Introduction (Pages V-VIII)
In the introduction section, the Author argues that Ethiopia’s problems will be solved by being inward looking rather than looking for solutions either from the West or East. He says, we have to follow the principle of “domestic solution for domestic problem” rather than looking for solutions from outside. It is not clear how this inward looking principle solve all problems that Ethiopia faces and brings progress to Ethiopia in the globalized world. In his September 2019 interview with Sheger FM Radio journalist Meaza Birru, the Author said when he came to power in April 2018, Ethiopia was a country that was not able to pay the salaries of Ethiopian Government employees and debts but he solved these problems by securing millions of dollars from foreign assistances (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyQIVgOZ10k). The question is how come Medemer philosophy which has grown with him and hoped to offer domestic solution for all domestic problems didn’t solve the problem of incapability to pay salary for domestic Ethiopian Government employees?
PART 1: THE BASIS FOR MEDEMER IDEA
Chapter one: Human-beings’ Increasing Needsand Capacity (Pages 1-12)
In this chapter, the Author discussed about human needs. He divided human needs in to two main categories1) Direct Survival Needs (need to protect oneself from danger and to live) and 2) Indirect Survival Needs [a) needs to eat, drink, and shelter; b)needs to be valued and honored, respected and glorified; c)need to be free] and argued that these needs can be met only by coming together (Medemer), not by working individually. This statement reminds me the argument in favor of cooperatives and villagizationas well as the justification for establishing different associations such as farmers association, women’s association, youth association, labor union, etc. under Socialist Ethiopia. The Author argues that human needs are survival needs and not addressing these needs is considered as playing with human-beings’ survival needs. He says, human beings have the capacity to cooperate or to compete and to fulfill the survival need, understanding these capacities is a must.
Chapter Two: The Contradiction of Two Ideologies (Pages 13-34)
In this chapter, the Author discussed Liberalism and Socialism. He says Liberalism gives priority to the need to be free, but Socialism gives priority to the need to be equal. According to the evaluation of the Author, Liberalism/Capitalism and Socialism as well as Social Democracy which emerged as a middle point between Liberalism and Socialism and attempted to reconcile the principles of both ideologies, failed to address the need of the majority. He also tried to show how Socialism and Liberalism (Developmental State) failed to work in Ethiopia and how the effort to bring Social Democracy through Revolutionary Democracy failed in Ethiopia.
According to the Author, the instabilities that Ethiopia faced were the outcomes of the conflict between the knowledges acquired from abroad and the conditions in the country. He argues, Liberal Democracy is based on the European liberal culture and it doesn’t fit to Ethiopia who is not in a position even to feed itself (page 34). In the Author’s opinion, Ethiopia needs independent and Ethiopian philosophy, i.e. Medemer. I wish he showed us how Medemer which advocates for coming together can address the needs of the majority where Socialism which is based on the principle of "Workers of the world unite!" failed. He argues introducing Liberalism to a country with illiterate and hungry population is wrong. I wish he explained in this chapter how Medemer fits to a country with illiterate and hungry population so that most developing countries that have illiterate and hungry people can use it.
Chapter Three: The Verdict of Medemer (Pages 35-48)
In this chapter, the Author presented the definition of Medemer. He has a subtitle which says “Medemer Means” (page 36), but instead of providing the definition of Medemer under this subtitle, he explained the objective of Medemer. It seems that he intentionally wanted to leave his readers in the dark regarding the meaning of Medemer.
On page 40 of the book, the Author shared the meaning of the word Medemer obtained from three Amharic-Amharic Dictionaries. The common meaning of the three dictionaries for the word Medemer is “to bring together to make one”. On the same page, the Author said something is created by coming together of small things, from their accumulation and this is what is called Medemer. This is why pro-federal system groups are suspicious to the idea of Medemer. They are wary of what Prime Minister is doing and see Medemer as his plan to take the country back to the unitary system where power is accumulate at the center.
The Author says the main objective of Medemer is to build upon the political and economic gains, to correct mistakes done, and achieve the needs and benefits of the future generation. He says, in terms of political analysis Medemer is indigenous; in terms of finding solutions it was designed by taking domestic and foreign knowledges. Here, the ideologue admitted that Medemer is using knowledge obtained from outside Ethiopia, the act he said in the previous pages a mistake and criticized. He also said Medemer is a concept/theory which touches upon all private and social life including political, economic, and social sectors. Here, Medemer looks like a religion which governs the holistic life of an individual and a society. The Author argues, unless we bring together our ideas, money, knowledge, etc and add one on the top of another, individualism will lead us to decay and extinct. If this statement is true, I wonder how the Western capitalist countries where the concept of individualism is prevalent managed to survive.
The Author explained the benefit of building upon the achievement of the past instead of destroying what were done in the past and focusing on the clearing the debris of the past. He also repeated the explanation about the benefit of building on the achievements of the past on page 57. If that is the case, why wasting that much time and energy to destroy what weredone by EPRDF, especially revising the federal structure, selling public enterprises and ongoing projects.
On page 42, the Author says “Since Ethiopia lived in isolation for epochs by burring itself within mountains and closing its doors, she has been in solitary deficit”. This contradicts with the statement that he made on page 33 of the book where he said the instabilities that Ethiopia faced were the outcome of the conflict between the knowledges acquired from abroad and the conditions in the country. Such conflicting statements are some of challenges a reader may face while reading the book and while trying to see consistent flow of ideas in the book.
The Author identified “common goal” and “taking initiative” as fundamentals of Medemer. He also divided Medemer’s process into three: being passerby (ignoring Medemers concepts, being an observer, and external), being a gust (showing interest for Medemer and learning its concepts), and being resident (understanding and following Medemer theory). It is like issuing Red, Yellow, and Green cards for someone based on his/her position towards and knowledge about Medemer. I have no idea what color of card the opponents of Medemer should be given.
The Author also identified “unity of the country”, “respect for citizens”, and “prosperity” as the values of Medemer. He said the fate of nations and nationalities of Ethiopia are only to live together, not to live alone. Unity of the country is the matter of survival, not a matter of choice. Here, the Author resembles Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam who sent thousands of Ethiopians to war to keep Eritrea within Ethiopia and to protect territorial integrity of Ethiopia by force. Until I read this statement, I never compared Lieutenant Colonel Abiy Ahmed with Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam. The Author also contradicts the principle of self-determination of nations and nationalities enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. This clearly shows that the value of Medemer is contradictory to the values of Ethiopian constitution because Medemer says nations and nationalities have no other choice except living within Ethiopia in unity and accuses anyone who thinks different from this as a racist (page 47-48).
Chapter Four: The Problemsof Addend (Pages 49- 76)
The Author says Medemer is measurable philosophy and our closeness to Medemer can be expressed in Medemer meter. I wish I knew how many meters I am close to Medemer or how many meters I am away from it.
The Author says Medemer has two main problems of addend: Problems of idea and problems of practice. He categorized extreme ideas,dependency on time (fixing one’s idea in the past, or in the present, or in the future rather than linking them together), simplifying things rather than looking at them as a complex whole, disrespecting professions, being revolutionary, mockery, and opportunist as problems of idea. On the other hand, he categorized lack of conscience (insensibility or heartlessness) and sluggishness as a problems of practice and Medemer’s redlines and behaviors which Medemer despise. He said Medemer will not tolerate corruption and laziness. This reminds me National Control Committee under Derg and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission under EPRDF both of which were established to control corruption but failed to achieve their objectives.
In this Part I of the book, the Author advised Ethiopians to stop using words and terms which put someone in a certain category such as chauvinist, narrow nationalist, anti-peace, anti-development, anti-people, and reactionary, but as stated on page 46 of the book, he created another labeling words such as “passerby”, “guest”, and “resident” of Medemer.
Frankly speaking, even though the Author repeatedly used the phrase “Medemer philosophy” in the Part I of the book, I didn’t get how discussing ordinary topics like the needs of human being which everyone discusses at a family level, the need to come together which every Ethiopian discusses at Edir and Equb gatherings in their villages, liberalism and socialism which were discussed enough in Ethiopia for the last 45 years, discussing the benefit of accumulating wealth which is even known by “tie wearing thieves in the Government offices”, and telling how bad corruption and laziness are which are well known even among the Tuk-tuk (Bajaj) drivers considered a philosophy and the only solution which can save Ethiopia and its people from vanishing. I hope, I will be able to get answer and clarification for this question from the rest parts of the book.
To be continued….Part II: The Fracture of Ethiopian Politics and Its Maintenance Option