By Assefa A. Lemu
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 country 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 election and became the President of Madagascar in January 2019. IEM was Rajoelina’s and his party’s (Tanora malaGasy 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 any other 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 Sese Seko 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 ruled by “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, olmaafi galiin bilasha”. He translated this Afan Oromo saying to Amharic and the Amharic meaning shows that what he wanted to say is “Bashasha, olmaafi galli bilasha” meaning “in Bashasha you 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 Afan Oromo 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 Qube Afan 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 I: THE BASIS FOR MEDEMER IDEA
Chapter one: Human-beings’ Increasing Needs and Capacity (Pages 1-12)
In this chapter, the Author discussed about human needs. He divided human needs in to two main categories 1) 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 villagization as 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 were done 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 Problems of 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.
PART II: THE FRACTURE OF ETHIOPIAN POLITICS AND ITS MAINTENANCE OPTION
In his Medemer book launching speech of September 2019, His Excellency Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed said, “ If one party and Medemer are considered not useful, let the brave person put his whisky aside and come up with the alternative idea and write a book titled Multiplication” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHwNmvrN_3E). What Dr. Abiy didn’t realize is that rejecting the idea of Medemer doesn’t require writing a book under the title of one of the remaining three mathematical operations—Multiplication, Division, or Subtraction. Rejection can be expressed by action or inaction.
When I hear the above quoted statement of Dr. Abiy, two questions came to my mind: 1) what is the relationship between drinking whisky and writing a book? 2) Why he focused only on male and asked them to write “Multiplication” book? Anyways, until we write a recommended book under the title of “Multiplication”, we will continue reviewing Medemer (Addition).
Chapter Five: Oppression and the Survival of Ethiopian State (Pages 77-90)
At the opening of Chapter Five, the Author said, “ In one hundred and twenty years of modern history of our country, we repeatedly noticed situations where the fall of one government has posed a danger of dissolution of the country” (page 77). Here, the Author confirmed EPRDF’s discourse that says Ethiopia was established by Emperor Menelik II and has only 120 year of history as a state under one sovereign government and with the defined boundary. This is a big departure from fairytale of never changing 3,000 year of “history of Ethiopia”. The Author admitted the truth that Ethiopian State was founded by Menelik II who was Emperor of the Ethiopian Empire from1889 to his death in 1913. Therefore, counting the age of present day of Ethiopia starting from 1889 makes sense.
The Author also argues that the leaders of Ethiopia, especially the kings, were busy with addressing external and internal political issues and didn’t get time to design policies which could prosper and civilize the country. The kings spent their whole time and age on stabilizing the country. Even though he didn’t specify the name of these kings, one may assume the Author is referring to Emperors Menelik II and Hailesellasie because these were the two kings who ruled Ethiopia after it was formed as a state.
The Author says, the main reasons for the absence of the required development and civilization in Ethiopia is because of lack of legitimacy of Ethiopia as a state. He says those who governed Ethiopia spent great deal of their time in bringing legitimacy to Ethiopia as a state rather than meeting the need of the peoples. Since the peoples in Ethiopia didn’t give legitimacy to the government and the state of Ethiopia, Ethiopian kings and authorities spent their times averting internal and external dangers posed against the very existence of Ethiopia as a country. Because of this, they didn’t get time to meet the needs of the peoples and failure to meet these needs created discontents which in turn led to revolts and overthrowing of these authorities/leaders.
According to the Author, oppression has been the main instrument to maintain the very existence of state and government in Ethiopia and Ethiopian elites contributed to these oppressions. He argues that most of Ethiopian elites want to directly implement what they read instead of analyzing and matching it with the reality in the country. He accuses the Ethiopian elites as lazy and careless.
The Author says oppression could be divided in to two: 1) Manmade oppression which comes from the evil thinking and intention of humans and implemented based on the wish and plan of the humans; 2)Structural oppression which comes from the structure of the system and targets certain individuals or groups. Manmade oppression comes from individuals and oppresses everyone, but structural oppression comes from the system and targets selected groups. He proposes that the solution for ending manmade oppression is to make power come from the ballot box rather than from the barrel of the gun and to end structural oppression, reform should be made.
Chapter Six: The Plan to Create Ethiopian Democracy (Pages 91-108)
In Ethiopia, there has been the problem of legitimacy of government power. In the past, Ethiopian Orthodox Church was the one who used to give legitimacy for the rulers/ authorities. The bases for getting legitimacy were linage and force. Derg changed such legitimacy which comes from church and linage. However, Derg failed because it was not able to implement democracy which is the basis for the new legitimacy of power. EPRDF also failed because its assumption which says legitimacy will come from achieving economic development didn’t work and the demand for democracy increased.
Out of the three demands which challenged the Ethiopian feudal system, namely, equality, liberty, and fraternity, the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution which tried to address the question of land holding (economic question) and the 1991 Revolution which tried to address the questions of nations and nationalities focused only on “equality”. The demands for liberty and fraternity didn’t get the necessary attentions. Even though there are still demands for equality, the main reasons for the continuous instability in Ethiopia are absence of the values of liberty and fraternity. I agree with the assessment of the Author in this regard.
In this chapter, the Author discussed the concepts of direct and representative democracy as well as the concepts of majority vote and consensus. He also briefly touched upon the arguments which are promoted by the so called “civic nationalist group” which says “if individual rights are respected, group rights will be respected automatically” and by the so called “social nationalist group” which says “if group rights are respected, individual rights will be respected automatically” and criticized both for failing to give balanced attention for manmade and system-made oppressions. He said both civic nationalists and social nationalists are trying to treat one disease with the medicine made for another disease.
According to the Author, the solution for eradicating oppressions and achieving equality, liberty, and fraternity is implementing “Medemer Democracy” which balances civic nationalism and social nationalism as well as uses consensus democracy by loosening the tension among the elites of different ethnic groups. In his opinion, Medemer Democracy which he said is based on the Ethiopian values and cultures can solve Ethiopian problems. He said the end goal of Medemer Democracy is to build Ethiopia in which democracy will be based on developed civic culture and competition of ideas and where there will be no more contradiction between democracy and the very existence of the country.
The effort to change Revolutionary Democracy to Medemer Democracy and transforming Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to Ethiopian People Medemer Democratic Front (EPMDF) formally known as Prosperity Party (PP) is underway. You can read the political program of Prosperity Party which is based on Medemer Democracy here https://addisstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Exclusive-Prosperity-Party-Regulation.pdf. If the Author really believes that Ethiopia shouldn’t be a laboratory where different ideas will be tested, I wonder why he wanted to test Medemer Democracy on Ethiopia.
Chapter Seven: The Challenge to Affirm the Legitimacy of the State (Pages 109-125)
According to the Author, legitimacy of state means where the people or the elites consider that the state is their representative that can implement their needs. When there is legitimacy of the state, the citizens will accept that state is the only legitimate entity that can use physical force. He says, the legitimacy of state comes from the consensus of elites because the state that doesn’t have the acceptance of elites will not get acceptance from the people. In addition, he says the political elites have different stories and interpretations about what happened during the formation of Ethiopia and because of that there will be instabilities and conflicts. Thus, the works which are underway to solve the chaos related to the formation of the state cannot bring lasting solution but may bring quick answers to the problems.
The Author argues that the reason why nationalism has become noticeable in Ethiopia is because of the existence of national oppression. When there is oppression based on identity, people rally around identity politics.
The Author reiterated the fact about the formation of Ethiopian state at the end of 19th century through expansion from north to south. This expansion is seen by some as colonialism, by some as national oppression, and by others as state building (page 115). Ethiopia’s state building has been followed assimilation policy and remains suspended or half done. Because of that, it has been a point of debate among the elites of the country. Ethiopian state building partly gave birth to civic nationalism because it was half built and on the other hand created social nationalists because it was an aborted endeavor. This made Ethiopian politics to be pulled between civic nationalists and social nationalists. (If you are interested to know more about nationalism in Ethiopia read the article I posted on this subject and available here: http://www.aigaforum.com/article2019/Nationalism-in-Ethiopia.htm)
The Author argues that the way Ethiopian state built and the identity politics associated with the way it was built created negative attitude against the legitimacy of the Ethiopian state. Because of that, the value of common identity has been eroded from time to time and there is no common stance even on the main national issues. The tension between civic nationalists and social nationalists reached at the point where it posed the danger of ripping the country into pieces and leading the peoples in the country to another endless war.
According to the Author, to end oppression and build democratic Ethiopia as well as to make sure that the Ethiopian state has legitimacy, national reconciliation and consensus are necessary, and to make this practical, the existence of independent institutions are necessary.
Chapter Eight: The Formation of Free, Independent, and Capable Institutions (Pages 126-133)
The Author argues that even though Ethiopia was able to establish strong central government like countries in Europe and Asia, it couldn’t build a political system where supremacy of law and accountability are implemented. Because of that, it has been suffering from lack of stability and backwardness. According to the Author, one of the reasons why the attempt to build Developmental State in Ethiopia for the last 27 years was not successful is the limitation to build capable institutions which are the sources of strength for the developmental state. The institutions on which the state has based have problems of mixing the responsibilities of party and government, lack of capacity and independence, and not renewed with social and economic changes.
The Author identified two main problems of Ethiopian institutions: 1) weaknesses which came from patrimonialism/neo-patrimonialism and cronyism, and 2) conservativeness (lack of interest/willingness to change and modernize). To form free, independent, and capable institutions in Ethiopia, the Author argues, changing the attitude about public service delivery, organization, procedures, and processes as well as reforming the civil service are necessary.
Chapter Nine: Changing the Political Leadership from Boss to Leader (Pages 134-143)
According to the Author, one of the reasons why Ethiopia didn’t get out of poverty using her natural resources is the failure of leadership. According to Ethiopian traditional thinking, leaders mean a boss who has inviolable authority. Unless the Author is referring to the Habesha culture which is hierarchal and based on Getoch (master) versus Gebar (serf) relationship, his generalization is not true. For example, under Oromo Gada system, leaders are not considered as bosses and the system doesn’t allow them to act like bosses.
The author explained the difference between a boss and a leader: boss is one who imposes his dreams on others by force and creates followers by force, but leader is one who creates supporters by convincing and positively influencing. He says to build developed democratic society, we need to get out of the boss mentality. According to the Author, lack of ability to create common dream, lack of excellence to control emotions, challenges to reconcile leadership skills, and group composition are the challenges of leadership in Ethiopia. He says ethnic representation is one of the problems of group composition which weakens merit-based leadership. He also says most Ethiopians are dumb citizens (fiz zegoch) who run after their personal interest rather than focusing on the interest of their country (page 142). His proposed solution for such kinds of problems is to have leaders who have visions, who can share these visions with their followers, and who can motivate/provoke their followers (yemineshitu). He argues, rather than eliminating the leadership capacity of the country, it would be better to build upon what the country has, to accumulate the dispersed ability of the citizens. I hope the readers understand that in this article I am reviewing what he wrote in the book under review not what he is doing as a head of Government of Ethiopia.
Chapter Ten: Building Political Culture, the Lasting and Reliable Solution (Pages 144-154)
According to the Author, institutional building by itself is a flesh without soul. The institutions will get soul only when the culture that can support them has been created. Human beings have the ability to twist nature let alone other things. Therefore, unless democratic culture is developed, there is nothing that can stop human beings from twisting the independent institutions and make them means of oppression. He argues that the reason why some countries who built independent institutions and more or less held free and fair elections face vicious circles of conflict is because of lack of developed political culture.
The Author argues that building democratic culture at country level is a complex task that requires higher level of struggle and long time. Democracy requires civic culture and civic culture is strongly linked to all rounded economic and social developments. He says people whose economic and social developments are at the low level, can’t get out of the competition of regional interests and they are strangers to the competition based on ideas. According to this conclusion, the competition between South and North Italy, the questions of Catalonia, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Quebec are because of their backwardness.
He says less developed peoples are busy with narrow agenda and focus on material things and not suitable for the democratic system based on the competition of ideas. According to the Author, civic culture is not being careless about politics and following up of international politics and decisions. In the civic culture, refusal, being stranger, and carelessness have no places. It requires following up of politics and participating in politics. Civic culture is a culture where the citizens get out of regional agenda and competition for ethnic interest and concerned with country wide political direction and decision.
It is interesting that under Medemer philosophy, discussing grass root problems is considered as backwardness and being concerned about international politics shows the degree of civilization. Internationalism which was condemned in part one of Medemer is appreciated in this part two of the book. Part three of the book may tell us even more interesting things.
PART III: THE FRACTURE OF ETHIOPIAN ECONOMIC SYSTEM AND ITS MAINTENANCE OPTION
Chapter Eleven: The Achievements of Ethiopian Economy and The Challenge of Quality of Development (Pages155-164)
In this chapter, the Author recognized the economic development and social change achieved in Ethiopia in the last twenty eight years. He says, the gross domestic product which was $7.9 billion dollars in 1991 was increased to $84.4 billion dollars in 2018, which is more than ten-fold. The number of population living below poverty line which was 44.2 % in 2000 reduced to 23.5% in 2016. The per capita income which was $164 in 1993 increased to $883 dollars in 2018 and average life expectancy which was 47 years in 1980s increased to 65 years in 2017. He also says the education coverage has been increased.
According to the Author, the achievements in the economic and social sectors happened mainly as a result of public investment in social services and physical infrastructures. The conducive international political environment also created an opportunity for the economic and social development of Ethiopia. As a result, Ethiopia got huge amounts of foreign aid and loans. The finance collected by domestic banks also supported the development of Ethiopia. However, he says, the economic and social developments have problems of quality. He listed high cost of living, unemployment, mismatch of saving and interest for investment, mismanagement of public projects, weaknesses in export sector and shortage of foreign exchange, budget deficit; slowness in structural transformation, contrabands, and illegal trades as a symptoms of lack of quality of the development.
The Author identified two main symptoms of what he said the disease of Ethiopian economy: (1) lack of fair benefit from the development (large gaps in wealth and income among the citizens) and (2) macro-economic problems (budget deficit, debt burden, mismatch of saving and investment, problem of trade balance, and shortage of foreign exchange).
In economics, there is a theory of immiserizing growth proposed by Indian-born American economist Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati in 1958. The immiserizing growth theory refers to the situation where economic growth could result in a country being worse off than before the growth. According to this theory, the economic growth may bring about an increase in level of production in the growing economy and the wealth effect may even be positive but there can be a decline in the welfare of the nation and the lives of the majority may become worse off than before. In other words, the economic growth makes people more miserable. This may happen because various reasons including the deterioration in the terms of foreign trade. Even though the Author didn’t refer to this theory, his argument show that the economic growth achieved in the last 28 years in Ethiopia was immiserizing growth where few got the benefit and the majority became more miserable. Validating or refuting this argument requires detail research.
Chapter Twelve: Causes of Fracture of the Economic System (Pages 165-196)
According to the Author, there are three causes of fracture of the Ethiopian economic system. These are:
- Inadequacy of Market– Inadequacy of market happens in the market led economy where goods and services do not follow the principles of supply and demand. The inadequacy of market in Ethiopia is related to weak private sector, lack of productivity, competitiveness, and profitability. To correct the inadequacy of market, the government needs to take policy and control measures. The author says government must not leave the economy to the market; rather the government must continue interfering in the market in selected and strategic areas.
- Inadequacy of Government– Inadequacy of government is related to the problems caused by a government either when it interferes in the market and makes mistakes or when it fails to discharge its responsibility because of negligence and imbalance of production and distribution of wealth happened. The monetary and fiscal policies that government uses may positively or negatively affect the way market operates and the way wealth is distributed. The Author says the illegal relationship between business persons and high government officials, in other words, corruption and favoritism which he call theft, and government intervention in the market are the two main inadequacies of Government.
- Inadequacy of System– According to the Author, establishing a system is about establishing rules of the game. He says per Medemer’s understanding, lasting and healthy economic development will be achieved with the participation of government, private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and education institutions. It seems that the idea of private sector-led economic development which brought proven economic development in the Western world has not been appreciated by Medemer. Medemer wants the collaboration and coordination of what it calls the main actors of the economy: government, private sector, NGOs, and education institutions.
According to the Author, the fractures of Ethiopian economy will be treated by fully utilizing the capacities of the economic actors (education institutions, NGOs/civic organizations, government, and private sector) and by using the principle of Medemer. Out of these actors, the Author considers government as the main force of development (page 189).
Chapter Thirteen: Forces of Production As Potential of the Country (Pages 197-215)
According to the Author, forces of production- human resources, natural resources, financial and physical capital- are the potential of the country. However, unless there is accountable system which protects these inputs from embezzlement, their existence alone cannot increase productivity. That is why the lives of citizens of some of the countries which have rich natural resources like petroleum worsen rather than improving. He also says the existence of good management alone doesn’t lead to prosperity. The development of the potential of a country depends more on the forces of production rather than on the management efficiency. Especially, natural resources and labor have significant contributions for prosperity.
The Author regurgitates EPRDF’s approach to achieving development through Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (ADLI), which mainly focuses on harnessing the three available resources- land, water, and labor- and then transforming to industrial development.
He says, following the land policy which came as a result of “land to the tiller”, an increase in the number of population happened in 1960-1985 Ethiopian Calendar (page 198). The proclamation to provide for the public ownership of rural lands of Ethiopia was issued in Yekatit 1967 Ethiopian Calendar(on March 4, 1975). Therefore, the statement he made about the population growth either has factual error or typo. In addition, he didn’t explain how the public ownership of land resulted in population growth. He also says economic development is the prerequisite for peace and security of Ethiopia (page 203). This is just echoing EPRDF’s policy of Developmental State.
The Author says the youth and productive manpower could be used to bring social and economic development and considers the number and composition of population as sources of national potential. He discussed the challenges to meet the growing demands of youth and weaknesses in the utilization of natural resources. In short, the Author’s perspective of economic development is not different from that of EPRDF. For example he says 1) Ethiopia should follow youth focused economic development otherwise the jobless youth will be disappointed and disturb the peace and security of the country; 2) agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and need to be modernized and made market focused.
Chapter Fourteen: Structural Transformation of the Economy as a Springboard (Pages 216-238)
The Author says the structural transformation of an economy mainly happens between agricultural and industrial sectors as a result of the movement of labor from rural to urban. He argues, agriculture is dependent on natural resources like land and water and applying technology and labor will not make its productivity to go beyond its last threshold. In fact, every production has a threshold where an addition of a factor of production results in decrease in the marginal output of a production, if all other factors of production stay constant. This is called the law of diminishing returns and he didn’t explain what makes agriculture different from other sectors in this regard.
He says, the transformation of agriculture to industry is inevitable and that is why agriculture is called “growing mortal”. He also says, if structural change is to be made in Ethiopian economy, it must be made first in agricultural sector. This is another regurgitation of EPRDF’s policy because EPRDF has been promoting this idea and to this end established the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) in December 2010 which also serves as the Secretariat of an Agricultural Transformation Council chaired by the Prime Minister. It seems that Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed is trying to sell EPRDF’s ideas by rebranding and repackaging.
Other subjects discussed in this chapter are:
- The challenges of industrial development which are related to skill and productivity of manpower, distributions of factories, domestic market, foreign exchange, and competition in the foreign market;
- Technological development which is related to equipment and tools, human skill, system and process, decision making, communication flow and storage; and
- Building knowledge based economy.
Regarding industrialization, the Author recommends labor intensive and capital saving industries (page 221). He says, Ethiopia has large and inexpensive labor force but compared with other countries the skills and productivity of Ethiopian labor force is low.
According to the Author, 28 years ago the Ethiopian Government asked itself how to get the citizens out of famine and poverty, how to provide services that improve their lives. But today, the question posed by the citizens to the Ethiopian Government is to have a political economic system that can enable them to convert creativity and assiduity to prosperity. In his opinion, the backlogs of poverty could be cleared and prosperity will be achieved through Medemer philosophy. This implies the relationship between Medemer philosophy and Prosperity Party (PP).
PART IV: ‘MEDEMER’ AND FOREIGN RELATION
This is the final part of “Medemer” book review which has been provided in four parts. Now a days, not only Medemer Philosophy, but also the sale of Medemer Book became the project of the Government of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed. Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), Ethiopian Embassies, and other Ethiopian Government institutions are busy implementing this project (https://youtu.be/gGDNdVZXGh0 ). As the saying goes, “the request of the king is tantamount to an order” and it seems that everyone is working hard to fulfill the order. If the proceeds from the sale of the book are collected with the official revenue collection receipt of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) to go to the treasury and to be used for the procurement of goods and services for public purposes, there is no problem of investing public funds in its sale. Otherwise, it is considered misuse of government institutions and the time of Government employees. The process is worrisome because, in a country where the Prime Minister takes public resources with pinches, the ministers will take with shovels and other government officials with buckets.
Chapter Fifteen: International Situations and Their Implication on Ethiopia (Pages241-249)
The Author argues that forces and structures of international relations are volatile; the situations are in big change and revolt. He listed terrorism, migration, increasing number of international actors, and climate change as main changes surfacing in international relations. He says, the two main international issues which have significant impact on Ethiopia are 1) the confrontation of superpowers and the increase of actors of international relations, and 2) increase in populism and acceptance of ethnic based parties.
- The Confrontation of Superpowers and the Increase of Actors of International Relations
The competition among the developed countries for political influence beyond their boundaries became one of the realities of international relation. America’s dominance which was seen after the end of Cold War is challenged by the emergence of other powers who are striving for geopolitical and economic influence. Transnational companies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) are also the actors in international relations. The Author says, the revival of Russia and the emergence of China are posing challenge to the United States and the fake news disseminated through Facebook, Twitter, and Google are posing challenge to other countries. He also says, the political situation around Persian Gulf and Middle East, the Iran-Saudi competition, the competition between Egypt and Turkey, the war in Yemen and the Nile issue have direct impact on peace and security in the Horn of Africa and around the Red Sea. American, French, Chinese, UAE, and Saudi Arabian military camps around the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and the competition of these countries to have friends in this region are also another challenges in international relations. Therefore, the Author says, these dynamic international and regional conditions should be given attention equal to building accountable, representative, and effective domestic political economic system.
- Increase in Populism and Nationalism
The Author argues that the financial crisis of 2008 and the stagnation of economic growth and social crises that followed it resulted in increased populism and nationalism. Political organizations that accuse the status quo for political and economic problems and who want to change the existing system emerged. Instead of ideology, principles, national and international relations, populism and nationalism became the governing ideas. He listed Sweden, Austria, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Mexico, USA, France, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe as countries where populists and conservatives won election. He says, the anti-immigrant and nationalist behavior of populists is posing challenge to the international trade and multilateral organizations.
He argues, the rise of nationalism and acceptance of ethnic based parties at international level have significant impact on Ethiopia. An increase in the numbers of political forces who rather than designing agenda which address the basic question of the people inflame grievances and hate immigrants is a challenge for the multicultural Ethiopia. However, the Author didn’t explain how an increase in populism and nationalism at international level create challenge to Ethiopia. In addition, it worth noting that Prime Minister Abiy himself is one of the populists who exploited the grievances of the people to mobilize support and take power ( http://aigaforum.com/article2019/Populism-in-Ethiopia.htm).
Chapter Sixteen: Medemer and Foreign Relation (Pages 250-267)
According to the Author, one of the sectors where Ethiopia built capacity without backlog is foreign relations and diplomacy. The good international works done by previous Ethiopian leaders can be huge capital for the foreign relations that the country is following. He identified three causes of war- greed, fear, and dignity- and said Ethiopia enters into war only for her dignity and used the battle of Adwa as an example that Ethiopia fought for defending its dignity. Ethiopia’s peace keeping role in Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and Liberia and its role in mediation also increased her influence.
As the Author puts it, Medemer’s foreign relation depends on cooperation and competition. It will continue the basic principles of foreign policy of the country by correcting the weaknesses rather than starting brand new. He says our foreign relation should give priority to relations rather than for pursuing interest and problems could be solved primarily by renewing relations. Renewing relation requires one party to take the initiative otherwise they will be in “Hobbesian Trap” where fear leads to an increasing fear and then to conflict. He says Medemer does not agree with the idea of “there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies” rather it believes in the idea of “there is no such thing as friend and enemy”. He also says Ethiopia’s foreign relation will give attention to relations with neighboring countries with the focus on economic integration, peace and security and will assure national dignity which includes the dignity of citizens and having strong defense force (army, marine, air force, and cyber). He also discussed the importance of being influential at international level.
EXIT (Pages 268-270)
The Author says Ethiopia got golden opportunities to start new chapters, but failed to use them and those opportunities were wasted. Now, another golden opportunity is in front of us- are we again going to waste or are we going to add the country and generation together and transform the country to the higher level? This chance is not what we usually get and, may be, this will be the last. Therefore, we all must rise up and write glaring history on the record. The Author tried to create sense of urgency to rally people behind his ideas. He also tried to convince the readers that this is the last chance for the country to see change.
According to the Author, the idea of Medemer is the conscious way through which we realize our common goals by exhaustively utilizing one’s ability and reducing wastage. It is a conscious way because it enables to reconcile principles with realities rather than leaving the problems of life to ideology. He says, if we follow Medemer’s way, it will take us to prosperity and civilization. If we are added together, we will solve our problems and ascend to the higher level. The Author concluded that the very existence of the country and the security of the people will be realized only through Medemer. In short, the Author is saying “my way or the highway”.
Medemer can be said a political roadmap rather than philosophy. It is a plan to allure unwary supporters. Time will tell if Medemer brings prosperity or poverty to the country, if it lifts the country to the higher level or douse it in the swamp of despair, if it brings stability or restiveness, if it unites or widen the rift among the peoples in Ethiopia.
In the 280 pages Medemer book, we find only one quotation on page 180 and that quotation is not done correctly (it is indented, in quotation marks, and in bold font and has no page number of the book from which it was quoted. Not using references and quotations and presenting ideas in the general terms based on assumption are some of the weaknesses of the book. In addition, one can observe that the author categorizes intergovernmental or public international organizations as NGOs (page 244) and he used incorrect timeframes (page 198).
The Author provided the list of books (bibliography) at the end of the book, but these doesn’t help the reader which idea is taken from which book or which idea is supported by which author. This diminishes the quality of the book and the credibility of his arguments.
I listened to numbers of panelists who tried to stretch the contents of Medemer to cover everything and make it one size fits all. Even, I heard that the idea of Medemer came from Oromo Gada system and will work for other Horn of Arica countries too; but this argument is not true. Therefore, the readers shouldn’t be surprised if they couldn’t find the ideas which panelists patched together regarding Medemer. The assignments of some of these panelists are to convince their audiences by hook or by crook.