Please allow me to commend you on your courageous expedition to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, a country we in Ethiopia in particular and the whole world in general think is a wasted land. Your cover story (Somalia: the failed state no more, May 2013) asked a critical question on why Ethiopia was not a part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Apart from what the unnamed diplomat from the AU said in your article, “in order to maintain its own military strategic interest in Somalia, “‘which may not necessarily be in tandem with the strategic interest of AMISOM’”, historically, Ethiopia has had a different and often intense relationship with Somalia than it does with the rest of its neighbors. This relationship compels Ethiopia to maintain a specific strategic interest and presence, which will not be curtailed under AMISOM’s rules of engagement, which will diminish Ethiopia’s military engagement in dealing with some of the eminent threats emanating from Al-Qaida linked militant groups operating within Somalia, such as the Al-Shabab. However, this doesn’t make Ethiopia’s decision politically wrong. If you look at Kenya, for example, it decided to join the AMISOM only after it secured its national interest in the port city of Kismayo and elsewhere.
Colonel Salif Mustafa
Former member of the AMISOM
Your article on Revolutionary democracy (The oddities of Revolutionary Democracy, May 2013) is a thoughtful piece. I especially enjoyed the “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist and all that” section. In the later sections, however, I was not able to clearly see the tension between revolutionary democracy and developmental state as I expected. In fact both can be seen as attempts to get political legitimacy from the (non-elite) majority- through welfare improvement, as indicated in the article for developmental state, and creating a political structure that favors the interest of the peasant and urban working class in revolutionary democracy.
However, the strange feature of the developmental state ambition by the ruling EPRDF is the apparent contradiction with the ethnic federalism policy it follows. Developmental state requires national cohesion to let the elite focus on pursuing economic development. Some developmental states have gone to the extent of creating an imagined external threat to mobilize the mass (for instance in south Korea the colonization threat from Japan). In contrast, ethnic federalism in Ethiopia is instigating competition among ethnic collations and is forcing the government into neo-patrimonialism to stay in power. This, I think, is disastrous for the developmental outlook of the sate both in orientation and action. Think of investment decisions made based on their political feasible of reflecting the existing power balances among different ethnic collations (and are not solely on their business feasibility as should be in a developmental state), or recruitment to the bureaucracy based on ethnic identity instead of merit, which is a precondition for having a competent bureaucracy required in developmental states.
Hone Mandefro Belaye
Graduate Student (Social Policy for Development)
International Institute of Social Studies (IISS)
Erasmus University, Rotterdam
The Boston bombing
Your article on the Boston bombing (Boston bombing ignites legal debates, May 2013) is a good reminder of how inept the legal system in Ethiopia is today. We have seen state radio and television stations as well as state run newspapers in Ethiopia proclaiming, time and again, suspects as guilty in an ongoing police investigation. It was not too distant when the state TV ran the infamous documentary “Jihadawi Harakat” tainting suspects who are in police custody suspected of links with terrorist organizations as “Jihadists” while the investigation is still ongoing. Perhaps the Miranda rights and its complex nature, as was eloquently mentioned in your article, is a little too much to wish to happen in this sphere of the universe but its basic lesson which is that anyone who is under the police custody suspected on doing something has a right to be represented and represented well is to reckon. This is a universal right that should be granted to all human races regardless of the type of governments in power. In the contrary however, detainees in Ethiopia are often deprived of their basic rights such as family visitations and enough time with an attorney. It should not matter what suspects are held for, but everyone is innocent in the court of law until proven guilty, even Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Attorney at large
Ethiopian politics is heading nowhere
Your society and economy columnist raised a thought provoking topic (where is Ethiopian politics heading to?, May 2013). It is unfortunate to see that politicians of the ruling party EPRDF want the general public to think they are doing Ethiopia and its people a favor for doing what should otherwise be taken as the party’s duty to provide. The construction of roads, hospitals, schools railways and condominiums are not favors the ruling party is doing to the nation, it is a necessity. As the government in charge, these are the things the public deserve to get with or without voting for them. And yet those were the platforms of the last local and city council election in Ethiopia. How pathetic?
Addis Ababa University