Reacting to Lefort’s Article on the Ethiopian Crisis – Messay Kebede

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Prof. Messay Kebede
 
pa-28884980I have read with great interest René Lefort’s article, “Ethiopia’s Crisis Things Fall Apart: Will the Center Hold?” With his usual perspicacity and deep knowledge of Ethiopia’s history and contemporary politics, Lefort analyzes the current crisis with penetration nourished with revealing details, often gathered from well-placed informants. One learns a lot from the article, but paradoxically one is also assailed with questions triggered by a vague feeling that the article downplays the essential factor of the whole crisis.

Lefort explains the current crises by three mutually enforcing factors: they are:  (1) “the weakening of the central authority,” following the demise of the strongman, namely, Meles Zenawi, which weakening strengthened peripheral attempts at emancipation; (2) “democratic aspiration” essentially originating from the sectors which, having benefited from the economic success of the regime, are now demanding for less authority and control; (3) “collateral damage from super-rapid growth” caused by the exorbitantly unequal enrichment of the ruling elites at the expense of peripheries and ordinary people.

When we combine the three factors, we get one commanding idea: the current crisis of Ethiopia is nothing but an outgrowth of the success of the ruling party. This idea is so pervasive that the whole article criticizes the ruling elite, not for the wrongness of its policy, but for being unable to deal with the negative fallouts of its success except by the intensification of suppression, as evidenced by the proclamation of the state of emergency. Nowhere do we find in the article the suggestion that the main cause of the crisis may be the inherently defective nature of TPLF’s social and economic policy.

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Because Lefort perceives the crisis as an outgrowth, and not as the unfolding of an originally bad policy, he believes that the crisis is a call for the ruling elite to undertake the necessary reforms. He is accordingly disappointed by the apparent inability of the ruling clique to respond to the call in a constructive way. Yet, the main question should have been whether the ruling elite is anywhere near to acknowledging that it needs to reform itself. The answer is a resounding no! The proof of this is that Lefort cites senior officials who claim that “the current crisis is simply ‘the price of our successes’. It was preceded and will be followed by others, because it is nothing more than a stage, unremarkable and inevitable, on the path that will undoubtedly culminate in the nation catching up with developed countries in the next few decades.” In the eyes of these officials, the main culprits for the popular unrests are the diaspora, the opposition parties, Amhara chauvinism, the Eritrean government, secessionist Oromo forces, foreign governments, etc.

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That is why it is naïve to expect reforms: the TPLF, which is the real force behind the EPRDF, is doing and has been doing what it had planned to do since it became an important guerrilla force, to wit, the establishment of a long-lasting hegemony of Tigrean elite on Ethiopia. For the TPLF, the question was never about the well-being of Ethiopia, but about an all-embracing hegemonic control of Ethiopia, one of its essential means being the policy of divide-and-rule or ethnic federalism. Accordingly, the ruling party sees the popular uprisings as nothing more than attempts to stand in the way of the hegemonic project. As such, they are not to be tolerated, but instead crushed violently and without mercy.

Unless the hegemonic agenda is viewed as the core issue, the intrinsic depravity of the regime does not stand out. Thus, Lefort makes the mistake of characterizing the federal government as a “center” opposing peripheries. In reality, the TPLF did not create a non-regional or cosmopolitan state machinery and elite, as did the imperial regime or the Derg; rather, what we have is a system of tight control of peripheries by a regional elite whose defining feature is its awareness of illegality inscribed in its minority status. This control is the very obstacle that blocks democratization and a fair distribution of resources. In a system constructed to perpetuate the hegemony of one regional elite, there cannot be fair distribution, any more that there can be an all-inclusive economic growth.

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The main cause of the crisis is, therefore, neither the weakening of the center, nor the emerging democratic aspiration, still less the negative consequences of rapid growth; the main cause is the ethnic factor, that is, the economic and political dominance of a regional elite. What is needed is not the reform of the regime, but the dismantling of the hegemonic structure. The negative consequences are not regrettable or avoidable outgrowths, nor are the democratic aspirations derived from economic prosperity. They are but the very application of the original intent of the TPLF. They are not mistakes or deviations; they are implementations of an originally divisive political program, the only one liable to safeguard the supremacy of a minority elite. Far from engaging in reforms, the TPLF’s reaction to the popular demands will model itself on its close relative, namely, the Syrian regime. The proclamation of the state of emergency is the first step in a gradual escalation toward civil war.

16 Comments

  1. Kitaw, when you say I do not like this man, which man? it is not clear to me.
    Are you talking about Lefort or Messay kebede.
    If it is about Dr.Messay Kebede, what exactly is the thing you do not like?
    I am sure, you can not challenge him with ideas but as usual very outdated style of defamation. Look what you wrote, He is” anti-Amhara he is OLF wing supporter…”, Your view is the typical dirty politics we have had for the last 40 years.
    Please, do not embarrass yourself, have a valid idea to challenge ideas.

  2. Kitaw, when you say I do not like this man, which man? it is not clear to me.
    Are you talking about Lefort or Messay kebede.
    If it is about Dr.Messay Kebede, what exactly is the thing you do not like?
    I am sure, you can not challenge him with ideas but as usual very outdated style of defamation. Look what you wrote, He is” anti-Amhara he is OLF wing supporter…”, Your view is the typical dirty politics we have had for the last 40 years.
    Please, do not embarrass yourself, have a valid idea to challenge ideas.

  3. Dear Prof. Messay.

    I have great respect for you for the very many contributions you previously had in the Ethiopian political discourse. In this response (if it worths that description), however, you have failed to address the very detailed accounts of the crisis as per Lefort, to only lump them up as a mis-characterizaiton of the nature of the crisis. Your status being an academic, we would not be unfair to expect a more detailed rebuttal of the specifics in Lefort’s article, and not a crude painting in a way that sounds like face-saving.

    • Kebede Atalay, These days, We are in deep trouble of not giving comments.
      Your whole statement is just generalization. It does not address to the points where Dr.Messay is wrong. You just picked a phrase like “as a mis-characterization..”
      In addition to that, You are talking about status, It is very shameful to say the least.
      According to you, “Your status being an academic we would not be unfair to expect a more detailed rbuttlal of the specifics…”, Where did you get this kind of analysis?
      Who told you that academics do not give a more detailed analysis?
      I think, We are in a very deep mental crisis

      • feyssa,

        You don’t seem to have understood my comment. Please try to read it again. You are not making any sense.

  4. Dear Prof. Messay.

    I have great respect for you for the very many contributions you previously had in the Ethiopian political discourse. In this response (if it worths that description), however, you have failed to address the very detailed accounts of the crisis as per Lefort, to only lump them up as a mis-characterizaiton of the nature of the crisis. Your status being an academic, we would not be unfair to expect a more detailed rebuttal of the specifics in Lefort’s article, and not a crude painting in a way that sounds like face-saving.

    • Kebede Atalay, These days, We are in deep trouble of not giving comments.
      Your whole statement is just generalization. It does not address to the points where Dr.Messay is wrong. You just picked a phrase like “as a mis-characterization..”
      In addition to that, You are talking about status, It is very shameful to say the least.
      According to you, “Your status being an academic we would not be unfair to expect a more detailed rbuttlal of the specifics…”, Where did you get this kind of analysis?
      Who told you that academics do not give a more detailed analysis?
      I think, We are in a very deep mental crisis

      • feyssa,

        You don’t seem to have understood my comment. Please try to read it again. You are not making any sense.

  5. I agree with Kitaw, I don’t like Messay Kebede, he writes loads of rubbish but no substance. I hate the way he loves political correctness hands up to oromo elites, he is sell out kehadi. His profession is not history, let him learn from historian Dr Haile Larebo excellent man.

  6. I agree with Kitaw, I don’t like Messay Kebede, he writes loads of rubbish but no substance. I hate the way he loves political correctness hands up to oromo elites, he is sell out kehadi. His profession is not history, let him learn from historian Dr Haile Larebo excellent man.

  7. Professor:

    Thanks for an enlightening response to the shade thrown in undermining the struggle of the oppressed people of Ethiopia against TPLF / Woyane / Agame scums tyranny. However, I do not agree with your designation of this Tigres / Agames thugs as “minority elite” – The TPLF / Woyane / Agame / Tigre mafia scums are nothing but a collection of illiterate gangs or “Shifta”.

  8. Dear Prof Messay Kebede
    How are you.Comment vas tu ? Tu as completement oublie’ Ton pays
    Tu ne perds rien come back home .we will wait you near Ethiopia Hotel
    Message from Old Friend Alemayeu

  9. Rene Laforte hatred towards Amharas was manifested accusing Amharas for dominating and suppressing other Ethiopians while he fall short of calling out The Tigres for controlling everything bowed the so called Professor failed to see or notice that.
    Rene has shown his sympathy to Tigrians subtly and his hatred towards Amharas

  10. I watched the interview of the white man who wrote the article (Rene Lefort). I never seen a white man who knows deeply about the woyane internal psychology. Usually when we hear foreign journalists talking about Ethiopia they focused on the surface but this man knows about TPLF internal problems. At times a bit confusion perhaps related to his age, but he nailed it!. I didn’t read his article but I watched interviewed by Dr Ezekiel, he is good at analyzing woyane mindset. The bottom line is, woyane never give up power, there are divisions among woyane leadership on the question of reforms how far to reform, but they are all united on one thing which is only woyane can make gradual reforms. He also mentioned that the leadership is in a mess, individuals outside executive power make decision, meaning… individuals like Samora, Gebre Dilla, Getachew Asseffa, have more power than the old oligarchs surrounding Hailemariam.

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