In his commentary to my short piece on Land As a Commodity and a Human Rights Issue, Tsegaye Tegenu (“Research on Land Ownership and Land Use Policy in Ethiopia”) takes issues with my comments regarding the shortage of “…clear, concise solutions to the problem of land allocation…” in Ethiopia. Furthermore, he indirectly suggests that my commentary piece should have followed strict rules of scientific research. While I agree with his assertion that there have been notable economists who have studied the land issue in Ethiopia, I won’t accept his criticism that my short essay should have been written explicitly as a scientific piece.
First and foremost, my comments regarding previous work were never intended to undermine or demean the contributions that have been made by many over the years. By selectively choosing only that part that would help him gain favors with others, the commentator exaggerated it into a kind of imbalanced monstrosity to flatter his own point of view and gain sympathetic ears. Whereas I regret that the writer approached his criticism of my piece in a manner that sounds pamphleteering, as one would belittle and mock one’s opponent, I didn’t think that I approached any prior work on the issue as being unnecessary, unworthy or inconsequential. Neither did I question the abilities and intellectual prowess of others. The reader will note that my focus, though not properly framed, was on the limited issues of clarity, simplicity and salability—standards that are difficult for many to fathom. I submit that the writer himself implicitly agrees with that when he declares, “The findings are not easily available because of their depth, complexity, time and space variations.”
My attempt in that piece was to communicate with my readers that land as a commodity could be subject to the rules of a market system, and as a human rights issue, it is subject to other considerations. Through this process, I reached at the conclusion that neither the private market system nor the state ownership of this important resource would be able to solve the scarcity problem. Consequently, I wasn’t writing to take sides but to implicate all of us to continue the dialogue so as to provide workable solutions before the politicians damage us further.
I thank Dr. Tegenu — a man I respect highly — for opening up the dialogue and for his insights. And in that sense, both he and I agree that the conversations and dialogue must continue. What I find interesting and reassuring as well is that, despite his criticism of my piece, he and I have come to the same conclusions on what is desired and hoped for on this limited issue of land in the Ethiopian context.
December 24, 2016.