Democracy – “mere myth” of Ethiopian elites
By Seyoum Teshome (MBA)
Six weeks ago, in an interview with Reuters, Hr.
Girma Seifu (the sole opposition MP) lambasted EPRDF alleging
that it follows suit to the China’s model in a bid to drag swathes of the
Ethiopian people out of poverty by 2025. He claimed that, I quote “… the
Chinese model is that economic development is the primary issue, don’t ask
about human right issues, don’t ask about your freedom, keeping silent on
people’s rights so that a few politicians get the economic benefits.” Likewise,
these are the exact claims that were made during the 1989 Tiananmen Square
protest in Beijing. The Chinese government condemned the protest as a “counter-revolutionary
riots” in a comparable tone with the “anti-peace, anti-development,”
which, often, used by EPRDF to categorical condemn opposition groups.
It seems clear that the ruling party, EPRDF is following
the Chinese model by prioritizing economic development over democratic and
human rights. The success of China during the last two decades justifies the primacy
of economic development over democratic and human rights, contradicting claims
against the model. The challenge from within was dealt by purging prominent
figures like Zhao Ziyang, the third Premier of China (1980-1987)
and General Secretary of the Communist Party (1987-1989), who believed
that economic progress inextricably linked to democratization. Thus, the
experience of china affirms that the pursuit of human rights issues, freedom
and other democratic rights are consequential to (or at least, come alongside
with) the economic development of the nation.
Since EPRDF took power, for the last two decades, contentions
like by Hr. Girma Seifu were/are archetypical to
all opposition groups in Ethiopia, which are similar to the one made by the
1989’s Tiananmen Square protesters. Nonetheless, it took less
than a decade for the prominent Tiananmen protestors to turn pragmatic
and question the wisdom of democratic reform. For instance, it was just in 1996
when two authors who claimed to be protested in Tiananmen Square published a
book that gripped the nation: China Can Say No, which urged readers to
turn inward and reject the “Western” construct of democratic reform1.
During this time, those who stagnate on the old way of seeing things were regarded
Often, it astounds me that the vast majority of Ethiopian
political elites, particularly the “Diasporas” are akin to the Tiananmen
Square’s “Mavericks,” who are blind to see the existing reality
in the country. I bluntly say that the “epistemological crisis”
that victimized the educational system as well as political system of the
nation significantly contributed for our political elites to be blind folded
from the existing reality; to be pragmatic and reject the “Western”
construct of democratic reform.
For Ethiopia to be a democratic state, it must be
developed at the bare minimum. History has shown us that democracy has
developed only where the dangers and difficulties of human life are reduced to
a certain minimum.3 Underdeveloped countries often strive to
maintain a democratic system which almost all of them obtain it once their
economy is developed. Literally, democracy is the result of a successful
development – predominantly, the economic development.
Therefore, it is reasonable for EPRDF following suit to
the China’s model and the archetypical outcry of democracy by people like Hr.
Girma Seifu, and the opposition groups in general is just a myth.
The liberal democracy of the west is not desirable unless it’s achievable.
EPRDF’s pragmatic approach in following the Chinese model is amazingly defined
by Meles Zenawi. “Pragmatism as I understand it is different from
what we are trying to achieve. Pragmatism is going after what is achievable,
not what is desirable. We are going after the desirable, but to us the
desirable is desirable because it is achievable.”4