Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Pre-conditions of Liberal Democracy

By Ephrem Madebo

Outside the academic world and the network of the few enlightened, to many Ethiopians, the word “Liberal Democracy” is a new buzz word; and to those of us who live in the Western world, especially in the US, the word “liberal” is one of the most confounding word. Is Liberal democracy good for Ethiopia? What is liberal democracy? What does the word liberal mean? Liberal democracy is a form of government in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law and moderated by a constitution. In Liberal democracy, the constitution gives emphasis to the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals and places constraints on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities. Liberal democracy may take the form of constitutional republic (USA), or constitutional monarchy (England). The objective of the article is not to define “Liberal democracy”; it is to provoke public discussion on the specific democratic practice that our country should adopt. I beg my readers to patiently read this relatively long article.

In the US, the words “liberal” and “conservative” are used interchangeably with the word “Democrat” and “Republican”. Though the extent of liberalism differs within the Democratic Party, democrats are usually considered to be liberals. In America, liberals endorse regulation for business, a limited social welfare, and support broad racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious tolerance. Often, but not always, liberals are tolerant of change and are not bounded by tradition. The term “liberal” in “liberal democracy” does not imply that the government of such a democracy must follow the political ideology of liberalism. It is merely a reference to the fact that liberal democracies feature constitutional protections of individual rights from government power. Liberalism refers to a broad array of related ideas, ideologies, philosophical views, and theories of government that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal. Today in the world there are numerous different political ideologies that support liberal democracy (Christian Democracy, Social Democracy, and different forms of Socialist parties).

From the above statement, it goes without saying that liberalism is the philosophical foundation of Liberal Democracy. The ideology of liberalism is highly individualistic and concerns itself with limiting the power of the state over the individual. In contrast, democracy is concerned with empowering the masses. Competitive elections are among the common features of democracy that require freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the rule of law. It is important to notice that there are non-democratic governments that follow the principles of liberalism [liberal autocracies]. For example, Hong Kong had never held a meaningful election (until 1997), but its government epitomized constitutional liberalism protecting its citizens basic rights and administering a fair court system and bureaucracy.

Liberalism is a very wide concept, but for the purpose of this article, liberalism is a philosophical thinking that dominated the Western world for over two centuries, in which individual rights are protected and governments are limited. I hope I’ve introduced you to “liberalism” and “liberal democracy”, however, such an introduction will be limited if I fail to mention the moral principles of liberalism. In fact, the most important aspect of this article is to look deeply at the moral principles of liberalism and figure out how to adopt these principles and make them flourish in our cultural setting. The moral principles of liberalism are formed on two seemingly conflicting behavioral postulates. First, there is a general postulate that rational self-interest motivates all human actions. Second, there is also recognition that rational self-interest does not characterize human motivation always; instead, people are often driven by passions and irrational emotions. These two behavioral postulates form the four moral foundations of liberalism.

The universal self-interest postulate and the limited rationality postulate underlie several important moral principles of liberalism. The first moral principle is that everyone should be a judge of his or her own interest and welfare (principle of autonomy) The second is that different persons' interests are morally equal, i.e. no person, or no one class of persons, can claim its interest is nobler, or morally more superior, than any other persons or classes of persons (Principle of equality) The principle of equality implies that everyone's interest should receive equal consideration from a social perspective, and that every human being has the same intrinsic worth. The third moral principle is that everyone should be free to pursue his or her own interest and choice, subject to the "harm principle", i.e., in pursuit of his or her own interest, he or she cannot harm another person's legitimate interests. (Principle of freedom).The fourth and final principle is that everyone should bear the consequences resulting from his or her actions in pursuit of individual interests (principle of responsibility).

In this article the focus will be on the moral principles of liberalism because I do believe the lack of these moral principles is one of the factors that holds back the political process in our country. Other than the moral principles, in Ethiopia, the adoption of liberal democracy presupposes other preconditions. The formation of a significant middle class and a flourishing civil society are often seen as pre-conditions for liberal democracy. As is the case in Ethiopia, the introduction of free elections alone has rarely been sufficient to achieve a transition from dictatorship to democracy. A much wider shift in the political culture and a gradual formation of the institutions of democratic government are badly needed (Free press, transparent judiciary, and a politically independent military).

Instead of considering the above four moral principles, I want to make a head start with the two behavioral postulates which are the foundations for the four moral principles. The first postulate, universal self-interest, has important implications for our political way of thinking. It is absolutely true that every one of us is self-interested, so isn’t it true that our rulers are self-interested too? Isn’t it also true that they need to be ruled? Or, don’t political leaders need a constitutional brake? Yes they need,otherwise, the political system will be turned into a self-serving machine of politicians. In fact, the fundamental liberal claim of universal self-interest is the basic assumption behind the vital liberal political theory of separation of power, checks and balances, and limited government. Without separation of power and checks and balances, self-interested politicians will use their power for their own advantages, often at the expenses of the public good.

Like the assumption of universal self-interest, limited rationality and irrationality have important implications for liberal political thinking. First, limited rationality means that one goal of political institutions should be to enhance the cognitive intelligence of public decision-making. Second, limited rationality or irrationality implies that concentration of power can be very harmful or even disastrous. Separation of power as well as checks and balances are necessary, not only to prevent abuses of power due to the calculating self-interest of power holders, but also to make sure that the process of public decision-making is not seriously corrupted by decision makers' irrational passions and limited foresight.

We live in a society where politicians do everything to glorify themselves. As egoists as politicians are, they want to be the “bride” in a weeding, and the “coffin” in a funeral. However, this attitude of self-centeredness has nothing to do with the concept of “self-interest” in this article. Self-interest is a dominant moral principle, not only because of its egalitarian and democratic implications, but also because the rational pursuit of self-interest is a better alternative to the violent passion for glory. People may not always be rational in politics, but they are self-interested. There is no insinuation whatsoever that the self-interested behavior of politicians is always harmless; the truth is that it is far less dangerous than their violent and burning passion for power.

So what is the good of all these to our country? Well, first of all, knowing and fully understanding the moral and ideological foundations of liberal democracy helps us to make an informed decision if “liberal democracy” is among the alternatives that we prescribe for mama Ethiopia. Secondly, we know that liberal democracy and its moral foundations have their roots in the 18th century Europe. Obviously, we don’t have to adopt it in its entirety. Third, there is one very important thing that we should always bear in mind; democracy in our country must be implemented largely as a response to domestic out cry for liberty and democracy. They can definitely help us, but neither the US nor the Eu can give us the blueprint of democracy. Imposed, or induced democratization might not work in our country like it did in Post war Germany and Japan because Ethiopia does not have the domestic traditions and institutions that these two countries had.

Is liberal democracy good for Ethiopia?

Yes, liberal democracy is undisputedly good for Ethiopia, but if and only if its adoption is initiated by Ethiopians, and if it is adopted with the right dosage to fit the Ethiopian way of life. In Europe, the birth place of liberalism, no two democracies are identical, and in the US, the grand son of UK, liberal democracy is implemented differently. Liberal democracy as a political culture needs a fitting atmosphere for its endorsement, it cannot be imposed and expected to produce favorable political result. Any attempt to impose a western type of democracy without either the domestic resources or the political traditions is a recipe for illusion. Most Ethiopians view democracy as a system where people participate in vital decisions that affect their lives. But, when powerful countries like the US and UK impose their democracy and their values on our society, then we start loosing parts of the meaning of democracy as it becomes an imposed rule on us.

The cultural setting of our nation is dominated by traditional life style where the communal way of life dominates individual life style. Therefore, the emphasis of liberalism on the individual and individual rights may conflict with the community ethos of the Ethiopian society. In the US and Western Europe where the state is strong enough to protect collective rights, I think it is appropriate to focus on the protection of the rights of individuals. In Ethiopia, where we don’t have such a state, the level of individualization called by liberal democracy has a tendency to contribute to a rapid weakening of families and communities. Therefore, the transition to liberal democracy must be gradual and at the pace of our society without creating a cultural shock that may have a ripple effect on many aspects of our national life.

Evidently, democracy is a sought-after mode of political interaction, but in our case, problems may arise when we decide which specific democratic practice is more suitable for our social system to adopt. As far as multiparty politics is concerned, in ethnically divided societies such as ours, majority rule might drive the society in to a problem because it has a tendency to allow perpetual majority domination. In this case, ethnic minority groups may fear the tyranny of the majority whereas majorities constantly resent a minority rule. (In this article, ethnic majority or minority is strictly numeric).

Belgium is one of the ethnically divided countries of Western Europe which can be a good model to our country. In Belgium, political parties represent the political and linguistic interests of the communities, i.e. the parties are organized along community lines; especially for the two main communities, French speaking Walloons and Dutch speaking Flanders. Today, the core difference between the main ethnic groups of Belgium is not very much ethnic; their major disparity is based on political and demographic issues. The trade mark of the Belgian national politics is the highly federal nature of decision-making process. In the Belgian parliament, important decisions require 2/3 majority and the majority of the two main language groups (Flanders, Walloons). This by no means is a call for ethnic parties in Ethiopia, but just a reminder to stress that in a democracy there are non-ethnic solutions for ethnic problems. Fifty eight percent of Belgians are Flanders, but Flanders as a majority can not impose their will on the Walloons and the Cantons, not because they are saints, but the way the Belgian parliament is instituted.

The moral principles of liberalism and our political elites

The culture of democracy (tolerance of dissent, representation, and consensus) needs to develop from the very bottom of the society to the top. In our country, the negative political culture of the elite is characterized by intolerance, egotism, discrimination and contempt for a common person (particularly for “unlettered” rural residents). One of the moral principles of liberalism states that everyone should be free to pursue his or her own interest and choice without causing harm to others. This principle must be the credo of all Ethiopians and must be practiced by political leaders, intellectuals, professionals, students, business people, and common people. We, the Ethiopian elite must acknowledge that when we oppose the incumbent government, there are others who support [oppose us], therefore, we must pursue our own interest respectfully letting others who oppose us peruse theirs. If we believe and act as if our interest is nobler, or morally superior; we will be not only irrationals, but also self- centered bigots. With such an attitude, we cannot lead a household of two, leave alone a nation!

One of the key aspects of a democratic culture that the Ethiopian elite utterly lacks is the concept of a “loyal opposition”. In places like Ethiopia where transitions to power have often taken place through violence; the concept of loyal opposition is unthinkable to almost all of us. For example, parties within the opposition camp (CUDP, UEDF) have constantly been seen sticking stick on each others throat. UEDF, CUDP, or any other party may disagree on issues, but they must tolerate one another and acknowledge the important roles that each play. We as a society must establish ground rules that encourage respect, tolerance, and civility in public debate. Losers of a public debate must be ready to accept the judgment of the voters when elections are over, and allow for the “handshake” transfer of power. The losers must feel safe that they will neither lose their lives nor their liberty, and will continue to participate in public life. The losers of an election are loyal not to the specific policies of the government, but to the fundamental legitimacy of the state and to the democratic process itself.

The principle of responsibility implies that everyone should bear the consequences resulting from his or her actions in pursuit of individual interests. In the last thirty years, neither those in power nor those in the opposition were hold accountable for their actions. Colonel Mengistu killed countless Ethiopians, today, he lives peacefully in Zimbabwe. Meles Zenawi killed peaceful demonstrators in a broad day light, today; he is still in power to kill more. Through out the years, the Ethiopian opposition killed the hope of millions of Ethiopians, today; many of those same faces are running to forge yet another party. This is a very sad tradition that must be reversed as soon as possible. A nation that does not hold its leaders accountable for their action is a hot breeding place for political criminals.

In Ethiopia, elections have repeatedly failed to bring about radical changes to the leadership, to the political institutions, or to the polity. For example, in the last election when changes seemed eminent, the TPLF narcissists refused to accept the outcome as fair. Hence, instead of progressing, the country switched to political turmoil shortly after multiparty elections that were supervised by international observers. Almost three years after the May 2005 election, the TPLF regime is still unaccounted for the pitiful consequences that resulted from its in-humane actions.

The healthy growth of Liberal democracy in our nation depends on the earnestness and perseverance of those who plant democracy, and the readiness and fertility of the soil on which liberal democracy is planted. Yes, we can import the seeds of liberal democracy to our country, but we must genetically re-engineer the seed to make it grow in the Ethiopian atmosphere. Liberal democracy comes with rules and responsibilities. These rules and responsibilities must mean the same to all of us, and should be respected by all of us regardless of sex, ethnic background, level of education, and political power. As free as individuals are to pursue their own interest and choice, they should also be willing and ready to bear the consequences resulting from their actions. In Ethiopia that we dream, no person should be impeded from making choices, and no person should be left unaccounted for the consequences resulting from his/her choice. Are we ready to practice what we preach? Are we ready to agree to disagree? If yes, so help us God!


Anonymous said...

“The formation of a significant middle class and a flourishing civil society are often seen as pre-conditions for liberal democracy. “

This statement remained me the argument forwarded by Meles and Prof. Endrias Eshete in order to justify their dictatorship in Ethiopia: concentrating on the economy to create a dominant middle class in Ethiopia car without a significant middle class a democratic system is impractical!

Belgium is one of the ethnically divided countries of Western Europe which can be a good model to our country.

Do you know that Belgium has no government since 7 months because of community/ethnic based politics? One of the communities is waging a war for a peaceful divorce! It is the most inefficient government in Europe! Their way of decision making is very difficult and takes a very long time which is not affordable for a poor Ethiopia! Our tradition should not be a reason to dictate us to accept ethnic/community based politics! If you believe that our family or ethnic traditions are obstacles to “liberal democracy”, why not we fight to change them?

We, the Ethiopian elite must acknowledge that when we oppose the incumbent government, there are others who support [oppose us], therefore, we must pursue our own interest respectfully letting others who oppose us peruse theirs.

We oppose them fiercely because 1) minorities interest is imposed against the will of the majority which is totally against the principle of any type of democracy (2) in pursuit of their own interest they harmed majorities legitimate interests (3) those in power never hold accountable for their actions

Ephrem Madebo said...


You are right; the Belgian parliament takes long time to make decisions because one of the two ethnic groups can always drag resolutions. Belgium’s significance to Ethiopia is that the majority can not always dominate the minority, or minorities have a good deal to say on decision making. We don't have to copy the Belgian model, but there is a lot that the model can teach us.
Regarding perusing one’s interest, I don’t think you got the core of my idea. We can and we have to oppose the TPLF regime, but we shouldn’t do bad on those who oppose us. The core of my idea is when we peruse our interest, or when we make choices, we have to make sure that our choice should not harm others.

anga said...

The most misused words this and last century are terrorism and morality. Sigmund Freud was also called for the motivation of political leaders with little help. We have also seen a racist view of the African as an undifferentiated herd, lacking individuality. We were also lied to that liberal democracy cannot be practiced without a sizable industrial middle-class while we know the Jeffersonian Americans of the 18th century who practiced liberal democracy were un-industrialized farmers. If the supremacy of the law well established, I think elected majority domination is far superior to dictatorships of any kind. Take Nigeria for example where Presidents come from either Hausa or Yoruba. About five elected governors were successfully sued for election fraud and taken out of office. Former public officials during Obasanjos government are being sued for amassing millions and billions of public funds fraudulently are being sued in courts.
The article is a junk science like a fast food. A political mumble.

Ephrem Madebo said...


Middle class and civil society are among the preconditions for liberal democracy, conditions that if they exist facilitate the building of liberal democracy. They are not conditions that must exist. You said: “If the supremacy of the law is well established, I think elected majority domination is far superior to dictatorships of any kind”
This is a true statement; the article does not disagree with it. You also talked about the supremacy of the law and elected majority domination, but in a democracy, the constitution places constraints on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities. Isn’t the constitution the supreme law of the land? Yes, the article is junk if you see it linearly, and it’s a gourmet if you see it exponentially. It all depends upon what you like, fast food or gourmet restaurant? I invited discussion, please let’s discuss with civility.

Anonymous said...

Madebo dude,

Why are you holding Belgium, the most savage country in Europe that committed genocide in Africa during the colonial era, as a role model for Ethiopia? Why not search an Ethiopian solution to an Ethiopian problem instead of kissing European arse? Western education has messed up a lot of Ethiopians including Mandebo.I bet you think you are a white man in a black person's body?

Hey, Mr Coconut, Ethiopia doesn't need your jargon. Stay in the west and keep kissing a fat white Belgian arse.

Anonymous said...

“We can and we have to oppose the TPLF regime, but we shouldn’t do bad on those who oppose us. The core of my idea is when we peruse our interest, or when we make choices, we have to make sure that our choice should not harm others.”

What do you mean “we shouldn’t do bad on those…”? For TPLFists, changing their status from a “privileged position” to “equal status” is considered as a bad situation/ damages their interest! That is why they support and try to justify the action of a government massacring its own people! While they are killing innocents to uphold their interests, opposition politicians (their programs) never called for an eye for an eye! For example, “Tigray Endowment companies” are totally monopolizing & damaging Ethiopian economy!

Anonymous said...

First thing first; I do laud your contributions of the last few years. I have serious problem though, with your basic premise that democracy (liberal or such)is a western creation. No, sir! It is a human creation and as old as creation itself. What humans are trying to regain is what belonged to them in the first place.

In a democracy every single person will be guaranteed human and democratic RIGHTS, irrespective of origin. In championing group rights, you are perpetrating the mushrouming of mini vasal states with all the paraphernalia that come with it; mafia ruling elites, closed community sentiments and all the prescriptions for backwordness multiplied geometrically.

What is up with this romantisism with the countryside and the archaic traditional way of life? Isn't the country way of life plagued with ignorance, abject poverty, ill-health, the vagaries of nature etc. Which single country advanced sticking to its irrelevant and outmoded tradition? Let's grow out of this foolish elitist mode and grasp the fact that greatness comes with the new and with the freedom of the individual that uleashes creativity and confidence. I care less which ethnic group the next PM or governor comes from so long as they leave me alone to excersise my right to pursue my life. All else is self serving.

anga said...

Ephrem wrote:
"the constitution places constraints on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities."
Ephrem well said. I too have concerns about the application of liberal democracy in the Ethiopian context, politically.
But the article could have been written without being touch on certain areas.

anga said...

It's just proper Ephrem defends his article. But those who share the same view as the writer on the content of the article can also argue to support some views on the article.
It's hard to argue that Africans or Asians documented their practice of liberal democracy to form a national government. Lack of documention of liberal democracy doesn't mean, developing societies did/do not practice liberal democracy at some level of their community lives. Documented cases of the practice of liberal democracy to run a modern state is obviously that of the West.
Ethiopia is a multi-nation and multi-religion country. Regardless of an ideolgy the Ethiopian government may espouse, it should recognize their existence and their rights to continue to exist. failing to do that would make the government illigitimate; therefore, it's bound to fail. The limitation of liberal democracy being essentially for the right of an individiual in a single-nation state, that can be expanded to include protection the rights of groups in a multi-nation state as sanctioned in UN Charters for their rights to use and develop their languages and cultures and elect to public office those whom they trust they can best champion their concerns. To say the traditions of rural Ethiopians is archaic is a racist fighting word, quenquestadoran, colonial in nature, destructive and culturally anihilist; thus expect a huge rejection. In peculiar situations where local group acquired state power and created a cultural and economic imbalance, corrective measures have to be taken for liberal democracy to work peacefully.

Anonymous said...

In absence of opposition to the Emperor the students of the 60's and 70's in the university in Addis, Alemaya and Gonder and others became one. And now a few of those are ruling the country even though they weren't the most popular in the student movement to say the least.

In the 60's the students were communists and that ideology united them until the revolution of 1974 and the Ethiopian students from USA and Europe came home. For some reason the students were Ethiopian nationalists except a few. That few exception succeeded in grabbing power using the peasants instead of the majority which paid too much sacrifice in the frontline itself.

In the past twenty years many political groups were formed out of the old student movement. Except for the Mecha ena Tulma, whose leaders weren't students, all the others were led by the same university students. The difference is the ethnic parties had more stregth at times and tried to flirt with TPLF but failed.

In the early 90s the intelectuals who weren't in the student movement tried to form real opposition. There were magazines and radios and then the Internet. Those who worked for the hated Derg but quitted while Derg was at its peak of power thought the problem could be solved in two or three years. Some of them really meant it but found themselves defending some of Derg's deeds which was good for TPLF. TPLF on was never popular. The case of Eritrea made TPLF look like more Eritrean than EPLF itself which contributed for more of its unpopularity. In the mean time the other ethnic orgs which were led by the 60s university students who were in their forty's by then couldn't understand why TPLF wasn't the way it preached while going as far as letting Eritrea go with the whole coastline. Whether Eritrea was/is Ethiopian wasn't totally convincing to those who fought for the independence of Eritrea for many years let alone for Ethiopians, including the ethnic orgs themselves.

The ethnic orgs didn't mind if their ethnic region was separated from Ethiopia to the most part intially. The smaller orgs in the south were hesitant about it and some of them didn't even want to have ethnic org at all even though the experience of the whole south and the Oromo was more or less the same and in some cases worst in the south.

The Ethiopian nationalists on the other hand were still trying to rebuild a nation for more than a century. Ethiopia suffered under Zemene Mesafint and it was only Haile Selasse who truly transformed the country and made it possible for all ethiopians to join modern institutions like the university itself. During the 1974 revolution Ethiopian nationalism was at it's highest while there was no external threat towards Ethiopia which was usually the case. Those people really thought they could get rid of a 3000 year old dynasty and form a socialist Ethiopia. Some how Derg and ELF/EPLF couldn't come together. May be Derg didn't want peace in Eritrea for selfish reason or may be EPLF didn't want to join Ethiopia as civilian but the war over there intensified like ten fold. Some political groups like EPRP were sympathatic to Eritrean and Ogaden movements while Meison and others weren't. To add insult to injury Derg crushed EPRP in the most horrible way. For the next decade or more, the Ethiopian nationalists were mostly silent. Most of the southerners and the Amharas hated Derg but they didn't have any political orgs. Everybody was waiting for the generals to topple Derg before it was too late. Finally the generals did try but failed. The Soviet Union was having problems of its own and the supply of arms drying up. The university students or the ones who didn't get slaughtered by Derg were all over the world by then. Most of them didn't even have contacts with their former comrades at that time but some of them in America were coming back to the political scene, too little too late. TPLF killed or captured the rest of the leadership of EPRP in Ethiopia. To this day nobody knows what happened to the captured EPRP leaders in BahirDar and Gonder.

The exEPRP activists who are not EPRP any more had had political thinking and entitlment since they were in highschool. One can safely say that the majority of the students were politisized at young age. Some of them now try to go back to their roots and respect the balabat system or whatever system there was in the countryside for the first time in their lives; the very thing they tried to change when they were youngsters. The Gada system became something sacred for Oromo students. In the 60s and 70s though there was little if any mention of the Gada system for example. Besides the Gada system waged wars against other Ethiopians every eight years and swallowed more small ethnic groups and made them Oromo in less than 100 years than the Amharic language did in 700 years.

As I said above the enemy was the Emperor and feudalism to the students. Respect for languages and cultures other than the Amhara was demanded by the emperor's students including the Amhara students, most notably by the likes of Walelign Mekonen who was Amhara himself and also preached by Derg later but not really practiced.

Since the minority TPLF government was totally immersed in Eritrean politics and trying to copy EPLF for Tigray for so many years, it is not trusted by the Ethiopian nationalists including those of Tigrayan orgin and TPLF can't come out of its past even if it tried. Now TPLF hopes the money that has been stolen and in individual hands would be regarded like the hard earned money which did get respect for Tigrigna speaking Eritreans throughout the country and specially in Addis in the past.

The Ethiopian nationalists are also suspicious of any ethnic orgs including Amhara org. Ethnic orgs themselves were suspicious of Ethiopian nationalists of their own ethnic groups from cities and towns mostly. Some called them gobenaits and sellouts. In the mean time some of the ethnic orgs were scared of the country breaking up all together which gave some individuals the excuse to join TPLF's EPRDF. I'm sure many of those will divorce and marry TPLF as long as the craze goes on.

The Oromos and the Amharas believe they have more entitlment than any other. It is hard to find Amhara or Oromo who supports the current TPLF regime if he or she doesn't benefit from it personally in illegal way. The Amharas don't want to separate from Ethiopia and none of them want the land and southern tenants in the south and elsewhere which Menilik granted some unjustly a century and a half ago. What the Oromos and the Amharas fail to see is it is the Amhara and the Oromo individuals who are more sell-outs than any others of the 80 or so ethnic groups in the country right now proportionally speaking. Ethnically speaking though, tortures, imprisonments and killings by TPLF concerned, the Oromos are suffering and the Amharas are suffering unproprtionally and so do all Ethiopians from Gambela to the border to the east. TPLF has turned on the Ogadens this time around and they are suffering more than anybody else. God knows whose turn it will be tomorrow...

Thanks bro Efrem for wishing us Ethiopians a brighter day. Continue the struggle and never give up.

Anonymous said...

Mr Madibo:

Here we go again, you were sunk in the mud of CUD infighting fanning all the hate against amhara people just a few month ago. Now, article after article, you are trying to mend what you broke. You guys just wake up from your bed and wright whatever you like. You were short sighted when you praised the CUD fuction who was under the direct control of TPLF and it seems that you learnt that you made the biggest mistake in your life.

Your politcal prostitution is unthinkable to the extent where you involve yourself Elias Kifle's Tegbar then Beyene Petros's UEDP then Berehanu's keste Damena etc. Man, i lost count to how many political organizations you involve yourself. I see a trend on you that you make decisions before carefully examining them. You are too emotional in most times to latter regret your actions.

Please my brother, i know life is boring for you and there are nothing entertaining at your age except medle in the ethiopian diaspora political fiasco. get part time job and be productive than confusing yourslef and your likes. Or if you want, open a moderate southern liberation front (SLF) and be part of EPRDF. After all you choose them than CUDP leaders who happens to have amharic heritage

anga said...

Shame on the irresponsible and hypocrite liberal democrats who do not practice what they preach! Preaching liberal democracy without those leaders getting committed to practice it is a visible fraud.

I think liberal democracy was invented to free inalienable rights of the individual from the oppression of the state which used religion as a its source of divine power. In Ethiopia, it should be used to free the individual from TPLF's tyranny.

Liberal democracy, having worked well for single nation-states, its application in a multi-nation, multi-religion Ethiopia should consider the history of the making of Ethiopia...conquest, feudalism, socialism, and TPLF hegemony. It should enetertain the excercise of the rights of nations of Ethiopia, and the numerical strength of an ethnic group should not the reason to impose its will on smaller ethnic groups. A veto power or a notwithstanding clause has to be introduced in the constitution for use by these groups to prevent the infringement of their rights by aggressively self-obssessed majority. The Province of Quebec, French minority in Canda, has such protection by a notwithstanding clause against English majority.

The inclusion of those rights in liberal democracy shouldn't surprise anyone because liberal democracy itself, it's deficient of many necessary thoughts for a complex society like Ethiopia. For example, without including social democracy into liberal democracy, unregulated free market econmy or capitalism without leash, will create havoc in society as it did in the 19th century Europe.

Ephrem Madebo said...


You raised a very important point that I wanted to be raised. As you said it well, social democracy is another choice that we can put our eyes on. The thing to note is that both liberal and social democracy are based on the philosophy of liberalism, but they are different in the way they implement democracy. Can we mix liberal and social democracy and implement something new? The door is open to all, our discussion should be geared on the pro and cons of each and develop alternatives. Dear Anga, let me throw the ball in your own court by asking you…how do we implement democracy in a multi-ethnic country such as ours?

Ephrem Madebo said...

Anonymous 1,2…

This is a response to those whose interest is to enrich our social understanding by discussing only ideas. There are two things that I want to make clear. The first is the Belgium example that I used in the article. I made it very clear in the article that we can always learn but we should not copy anything from anywhere. I do understand that the Belgian decision making process is slow. What we learn from the Belgian model is how they handled their ethnic problem constitutionally. Models are representation of reality and we can always learn from models. Learning doesn’t always mean taking the positive side; it could also mean avoiding (not repeating) the negative aspects of the model. The second point is the pursuit of interest. One of the moral principles of liberalism states that everyone should be free to pursue his or her own interest and choice, and in pursuit of his or her own interest, he or she cannot harm another person's legitimate interests. This is a very clear and a very legitimate statement. Yes, we can and should oppose TPLF and I did never say lets embrace them. All I said is, as we have the full right of opposing TPLF and supporting the opposition camp, there are people who have the same right to oppose the opposition camp and support TPLF. Based on the above moral principle, the point I was trying to make was that we should not physically limit the TPLF supporters from pursuing their interest (which is opposing us) because if we do we are not only taking away their democratic and human right, but we are also acting against our objective of standing for the democratic right of people.

anga said...

Before I go to say to your question, I want to make a remark on the impression that comes out of your article's severity on the opposition. It's confusing because the public understands you as in the camp of the opposition.
First, you boldly said that the opposition is intimidating and harassing the TPLF when you suggested that "the opposition should not physically limit the TPLF from pursuining its interests." This, you said, it's the violation of the self-interest principle of liberal democracy.You can't prove this allegation but the reverse can be proven.
Secondly, knowing very well that the TPLF tyranny gives no room to democratic and lawful opposition, knowing full well that the opposition has been spied on, harassed, intimidated, beaten, jailed and killed, some still languishing in prison and some others left the country and became refugees, as a result of which it's in disarray, notwithstanding this tyranny, there are those who trying their best to regroup to rekindle the hope for democracy and the rule of law once again against all odds, with little resources, being jailed and released often at every town and city, you however accuse of killing the hopes of Ethiopians. This is not acceptable conclusion.
Thirdly, it's unaccptable to most Ethiopians that you advocate evolutionary implementation of liberal democracy as if they were less intelligent and undifferentiated communal animals than Zambians, kenyans, Nigerians, Ghanians.

Back to your question Ephrem. From an engineering person, my answers would lack essay compsition. I am more used to expressing ideas in mathematical models than English language essays, therfore inadequate in terms of paragraph lengths. Therfore, hold your disappointment, Pleae.
It's true and anyone can see that liberal democracy and social democracy have been implemented complimentarily all over Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and elswhere in the world. Social democracy that has eveolved from democratic socialism is a philosophy that justifies the implementation of social justice and regulation of an unbriddled capitalism such labor rights, taxes, pricing, market competion rules.
Your second question: How do we implement democracy in multi-ethnic Ethiopia? My answer is in question form. How do other multi-ethnic countries such as former aparteid South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana in and out of military dictatorships, and Zambia long after one-man rule since indpedence implemented democracy?

Ephrem Madebo said...

Thank you for the prompt response. Yes, mathematical language confuses most people. I still have something left in me from my “Operations Research” Class. Feel free to contact me ( to answer my question using mathematical language.

You said:

“First, you boldly said that the opposition is intimidating and harassing the TPLF when you suggested that "the opposition should not physically limit the TPLF from pursuing its interests." This, you said, it's the violation of the self-interest principle of liberal democracy. You can't prove this allegation but the reverse can be proven”
I do make mistakes, and I am always willing and ready to be corrected. From my original post or from my comments, can you show me where I said "the opposition should not physically limit the TPLF from pursuing its interests” Yes, I have said, the opposition should not limit the TPLF supporters from supporting TPLF, but this is completely different what is said above. We must limit, we must stop, and we must do all we can to stop TPLF from committing crime. The TPLF supporters are people who are like us here in the Diaspora and in Ethiopia who think and believe TPLF is a good government. When I say supporters, I was refereeing to these people. If the readers think this has confused them, or if they think I should have said it in a different way, then I do apologize and I will be more careful in the future. Thank you.

anga said...

It would be nice if you can add edit features to your blog.