Understanding separation of powers in the Ethiopian context has become
difficult because party and state have often been one and the same.
In recent years, the governing party has implied that it is
mimicking the dominant party system of Japan and Sweden. Yet, the
informed know that these are democratic and homogenous societies.
The comparison is a little too weak to be taken seriously in a diverse
society like Ethiopia; a country that never had a democratic
tradition. Comparing it with Japan and Sweden would be an amusing
exercise in exuberance to say the least. Those who want unlimited
time in power have always found a way to justify their desire to
stay unchallenged with reason confounding to any rational
Incumbents have a certain advantage that is always accessible and
useful to maintain power. If regimes exclusively exercise power
through the suppression of dissent, however, it could raise public
frustration. Of course, one can maintain the status quo by trying to
enlist various groups in support such as businesses. But that does
not include the general public as a whole. It is rather a recipe for
an unmitigated failure in the long-term.
Optimists wish for the Ethiopian system to allow an incremental change.
So do they yearn for a culture diversity and democracy to blossom
without any blockage. But observation indicates otherwise. Radical
change always carries unforeseeable risks that are difficult to
measure at the outset. Those risks can only be avoided if a country
has competent leadership that is willing to foresee future
Changing the world is almost impossible if the worldview is biased.
Instead, solutions lay in looking at things from different angles.
Listening to independent and honest voices isolated from special
interest groups will be imperative.
If endemic corruption and the concentration of wealth and power in the
hands of a few continue, there will eventually come a time when the
unmitigated failure of the political class will catch fire in the
eyes of the public. Reasserting a sense of national dignity and
authenticity to gain public trust would then be difficult. Diffusing
political and economic domination will also be challenging; even
with enduring political commitment. Apparently, public opinion might
surprise those who failed to see it coming.
Change requires creative thinking and looking outside the box.
Repeating wrong processes with more vigor and expecting a different
result is, as the saying goes, insanity. In extension of the saying
“we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are,” we should
see the world as if we want to change it. It is not enough to have
divergent views unless effective change is made practical.
When one looks back over the centuries, Ethiopian society has
demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The
country, the people, and their way of life have been surprisingly
adaptable. Overtime they have shown more resilience than any
political, economic or social system ever invented to control them.
All kinds of pressures brought by a ruling class never broken the
people’s will to resist suppression.
New problems demand new way of doing things. Yet, high-handed
governments fail to effect change. Not less because they are hanging
atop a scaffolding that could not hold the status quo together.
Indisputably, unchecked cruelty draws public contempt over time. As
Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian philosopher, have rightly argued
“the prince who has the public as a whole for his enemy can never
make himself secure; and the greater his cruelty, the weaker does
his regime become.” The external show of strength does not always
match the rusting internal weaknesses that might not be visible to
those who benefit from it.
Whenever decisions are made to preserve the status quo by a few in
governments, there will always be a costly mistake of eroding public
trust. That has always been the Achilles’ heels that brought down
overbearing governments in every corner of the world. It is the
invisible defiance of the population that eventually will be fatal
to any such regime. As it appears, physical power cannot buy exert
rather public legitimacy as it can only be attained through
developmental results and treating people with dignity.
Tolerating peaceful dissent is paramount to building an open society.
It is also important to let choice prevail as the arbiter of what is
important to citizens. In a complex and diverse country like
Ethiopia, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself not
Leaders should be different. They should not just try to do things
right but have to always do the right thing for the destiny of the
whole country is in their hands. If they have motivations
inconsistent with doing the right thing all the time, the moral
hazard they create will in the end become their own undoing.
Yes, it is true. Freedom is a paradox, yet we all prefer it because we
have seen the alternative and it has never been inviting.