Who is in control of Ethiopia – by Leenco Lata

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Who is presently in control in Ethiopia? This is a strange question coming from a person who never minces his words when criticizing the EPRDF for installing an authoritarian order in Ethiopia, in which the top official is unquestionably in control. It is also strange to pose the question about a country where who is in control has never really been an issue at all. Emperor Haile Selassie, Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam and Meles Zenawi were fully in control in their day and in their distinct ways. Who is in control was never in doubt during the time of these previous rulers.
It is only after Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn became Ethiopia’s highest executive official that such a question started surfacing. In fact, questioning if he is really in control or not was aired from the outset of his tenure and has dogged his administration ever since. And I am one of those who dismissed the notion that PM Hailemariam is not really in control because according to the Constitution he is Ethiopia’s highest executive official who would ultimately be held accountable for any official wrongdoing as long as he remains in that position.Wikileaks on Lencho Leta (TOP Secret) – Must Listen
I am now increasingly inclined to question this earlier stand due to particularly a recent development. The Prime Minister appeared before Parliament on 10 March 2016 and apologized for the deaths and destructions that had occurred during the preceding months in Oromia Regional State. He deserves to be commended for having the courage and humility to offer a public apology on behalf of his government. Such an action is truly unprecedented in Ethiopia’s history and should be wholeheartedly welcomed.
Those of us who welcomed this public expression of apology held our breaths and waited for what should automatically follow: the withdrawal of special security forces from the areas where protests were taking place; the release of those illegally detained peaceful protesters; and compensating the relatives of those killed for peacefully demanding their constitutional rights.
When none of these followed the Prime Minister’s public expression of apology, we were left puzzled, disappointed and increasingly forced to question if he is really in control. The pronouncements of particularly the highest government official should carry some weight. Such public proclamations serve as the keynote influencing the behaviors and actions of all subordinate bodies and personnel. Subordinates are duty-bound to fall in line with the signal of their highest official.
Unfortunately, subsequent to Prime Minister Hailemariam’s apology, the direct opposite of what was expected happened. Instead of releasing the peaceful protesters already in detention, even more were arrested. The special security forces remained spread out through towns and villages and continued to intimidate, humiliate and persecute members of society. The words of Ethiopia’s highest executive official and the deeds of his subordinates stood at loggerheads as the result.
There are those who conclude from this that the Prime Minister was merely being glib when he offered his apology. But the apology was aired during a solemn parliamentary session thus militating against this stand. There are others who contend that he was simply hoodwinking society by his apology. This is also implausible because of the widely well-known religious nature of the Prime Minister, which renders it unlikely for him to behave in a duplicitous manner.
No matter what positions observers take, one thing is indisputable. The mismatch between the words of the Prime Minister and the deeds of his subordinates has a potentially devastating implication for the society they are ruling. Members of society are likely to be utterly confused by the contradictory signals reaching them from various levels of the government. They can correctly conclude that they have been exonerated of any wrongdoing by the Prime Minister’s apology. On the other hand, the actions of the security forces are meant to force members of society to draw the direct opposite conclusion. The upshot is the society’s inability to distinguish what is expected of it and what is not.
Furthermore, there are indications that PM Hailemariam Desalegn’s government itself is confused. The meeting he held with his erstwhile colleague academics, on 15 March, is one of them. It appears that encouraging academics to participate in politics was one of the objectives of this encounter. However, there are already University Professors and lecturers, such as Prof. Beyene Petros and Dr. Marara Gudina, leading opposition political party members. And most conscious Ethiopians are aware how the activities of those scholar-politicians are severely hamstrung by the government’s heavy-handedness. What else is needed to encourage more scholars to join the fray than stopping the policy of frustrating those already participating in politics?
The Prime Minister’s next meeting was with elected Gada leaders from the southern tip of the Oromia regional state. Much can be said about the implication of this meeting. Focusing on the contrast between two electoral systems and the kinds of legitimacy resulting from them is very informative. The traditional Oromo leaders were elected through a highly competitive electoral process marked with intensive and protracted societal vetting such that only the best and the brightest get elected. That these traditional leaders lack political power, however, is obvious since they command no police force, nor do they have other trappings of state power at their disposal. Their influence, prestige and legitimacy rest strictly on their moral authority and the confidence of their electors. If granting them audience was meant to recognize and tap into their influence, legitimacy and societal confidence, the Prime Minister deserves our applause for doing so.
Another set of Oromo leaders were elected on the basis of the official electoral system and are currently exercising uncontested political power in Oromia. I am of course referring to OPDO parliamentarians occupying every single seat both at the Regional legislature (the Caffee) and the Federal Parliament. Unlike those elected through the traditional electoral system, however, these ones lack moral authority, legitimacy and societal confidence. The peaceful protests that have been rocking Oromia for five continuous months now is evidence that the Oromo society has no confidence whatsoever in these supposedly elected OPDO officials.
The contrast between the stature of these two sets of elected Oromo leaders leads to a very simple lesson. Only an electoral system that leads to the election of only the best and the brightest can do away with the deficiency of legitimacy presently dogging OPDO officials. And this does not appear promising unless the playing field is leveled thus enabling fair and free electoral competition. This has been the demand of the opposition parties ever since the EPRDF ascended to power.
The Prime Minister made a striking remark during his discussion with the academics. He identified the absence of democracy within the country’s political organizations as the critical obstacle to democratic practices in Ethiopia. That he did not exempt even the EPRDF from this shortcoming is quite refreshing. He deserves to be commended for his frankness and honesty. I hope we, members of the opposition parties, would follow his precedent and critically assess if we are also practicing democracy within our respective organizations or not. I could not agree more with the Prime Minister’s observation. An internally undemocratic political organization cannot practice democracy in the external sphere.
However, democracy within the EPRDF deserves a special focus because of its dominance and the leading role it has been playing for now close to a quarter of a century. There could be various causes for the lack of democracy within the EPRDF: for example the history of its formation during the insurgency; and its cultural and ideological underpinnings. These are obstacles that cannot be summarily and easily resolved. But there is one step that the EPRDF leaders can plausibly take with immediacy having far-reaching implications for internal democracy. And that concerns representation.
It is well-known that the EPRDF is composed of Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), and the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM). They have all been very busy recruiting members from their respective constituencies for close to 25 years now. As the result, it is plausible to expect the number of their members becoming steadily proportional to the respective populations of these constituencies.
Nevertheless, these four organizations continue to send an equal number of delegates to the Executive Committee of the EPRDF. This has one significance and undeniable implication: According to a very rough calculation, the vote of one TPLF member carries the same weight as that of 3 members of SEPDM, that of 4 members of ANDM and that of 6 members of the OPDO. This form of representation has one indisputable implication. It violates the fundamental democratic principle of “one person, one vote.”
Let me state one fact as clearly as possible: My intension is not to advocate the rights of OPDO members or of the other EPRDF member organizations. I have a couple of aims for bringing up this issue. First, members of any organization who do not recognize and struggle against their own unjust treatment cannot be expected to defend the rights of their constituency. If OPDO members, for reasons I fail to fathom, are satisfied that 6 of them carry the same weight as a single TPLF member that is their business. Second, it is evident that OPDO members have a dilemma. Their organization was originally formed in order to capture Oromo backing for the EPRDF. At the same time, it is also expected to serve as the instrument for limiting Oromo role in Ethiopia’s political and economic life. It is this contradictory mission of the OPDO that is wreaking havoc in Oromia and nothing else.
Let me conclude by paying tribute to two individuals for their courageous and public warning to EPRDF leaders to uphold democracy. The historian, Dr Gebru Tareke, during an interview with an Australian radio station, forthrightly stated that unless the EPRDF leaders change their approach to democracy, they are likely to undo all their positive contributions. The former Commander of the Ethiopian Air force also offered a similar warning to EPRDF leaders in an article published by a local newspaper. I lift my hat to both of them because authoritarianism and federation make a highly combustible mixture.
There are many societies that have successfully practiced democracy without federation. But all those who attempted to institute a federal system without democracy ended in disaster. Mentioning the experiences of the former USSR and Yugoslavia suffices. Unless a democratic reform is implemented, and soon, that the same fate awaits Ethiopia as well appears self-evident to me. If I am being overly alarmist, it is because I am convinced that it is better to sound the clarion call now before the country crosses the point of no return.

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  1. Finfinnee is on a verge of total riot , anarchy and caos . It is wise to get armed now before it is too late to save personal properties from demolition by the hands of corrupt criminals leading all the Finfinnee society to be criminals. These criminals are driving all parts of the society to end up same as the people of Mogadishu known locally as Hamar ended up two and a half decades ago. The criminal billionaires in Ethiopia are buying tanks to secure their mansions but the poor is being caught empty handed. All crime addicted people are in control.Most of them continue to do crime out of habit not out of need.

  2. Self appointed Oromo leaders in diaspora such as Mr. L. Laata are working hard to alienate the Oromo people from the other peoples of Ethiopia. How? They have been writing and talking first about Amara and second about Tegre oppression of the Oromo. Individuals who led the country from H. Selassie to Mengistu and Meles were castigated by these people for their role in the oppression, but now they are being praised because they were in control of the oppression.
    Currently, the country has a leader from the South. What’s to be made of him? Mr. Laata says, the leader is simply a stooge. The leader’s appologies in Parliament, invitation of college scholars to particiapate in politics, talk with Gada leaders and member organizations of EPRDF are all sham because the guy is not leading. Not at least as good as H. Selassie, Mengistu and Meles. Wow What analysis?
    Lately, not not only Laata, but many others are openly praising Meles whom they hated deeply. We feel that all this hullabaloo about the new leader is because he is from the South. Oromo nationalists whom we expect to respect non-Amhara and non-Tigre leader are now fuming because the leader from the South is not in control. Surely, it is not about leadership or control. It is Oromo chauvinism covered by nationalism which has reared its ugly head even before creation of Oromo homeland has become a reality which is thousands of years off.
    South is a thorn on the side of Oromo nationalists because it will resist its physical separation by Oromoland from Ethiopia. That’s why the South is so despised and looked down upon by Oromo nationalists and seen as a threat to Oromo sovereignity. Logically, it follows that the South might work to sabotage the cause. And a leader from that region is enemy no. 1.
    Mr. Lata claims that federalism without democracy leads to disintegration of the country. If that is his conviction, why did his organization join three others factions of OLF and agreed to work for self-determination rather than for democracy? With democracy, self-determination might be irrelevant. Again, if he wants self-determination for the Oromo, why is he talking about democracy and Ethiopia? Why don’t you tell what your conviction is and stand for it without weavering?
    Given the conflicting political stand you and your organization have on self-determination, democracy and Ethiopia, it is no wonder why you’re shunned by your own community.

  3. Lencho Latta is not accusing the tplf/woyane his old and present friends. He wants attention. Lencho is mentally ill.

  4. You could rarely find such critical analysis adored with variety of beautiful words. What a mind!

  5. Sheegitu Daadi, May 24, 2016 at 8:12 pm, asks ” why did his organization join three others factions of OLF and agreed to work for self-determination rather than for democracy?”
    “Dear” Sheegitu;
    who said that self-determination and democracy are mutually exclusive? Please learn a little bit before you pour down empty words.
    In your own words, “Mr. Laata says, the leader is simply a stooge”, correctly because the later only talks, while his supposedly subordinates do what ever they like. Instead, you accuse those criticizing the ‘Leader’ of “hullabaloo, … because he is from the South”. This is a typical Woyane-style argument, to divert the issue from weak or non-existent leadership and to antagonize people along ethnic lines.
    You are a Tigrean Koso wrapped in Oromo daadhi.

  6. This crazy old guy is nowadays writing none sense articles. In this opinion article, whom is Lencho Leta trying to address. Whom is he telling that he has just learnt that the pupet PM Hailemariam Desalegn is not in control. What a new revelation Obbo Leencoo? And what a discovery?
    After working closely with TPLF and EPLF for years (both overtly and covertly) and after observing the Ethiopia’s politics for years, how comes Lencho just understood how TPLF rules? I believe Lencho knows this very well but I guess he writes such non sense articles purposely. In that case:
    1. What political or other reward is he expecting for deliberately appearing foolish?
    2. Who is he expecting such reward from? Hailemariam himself? TPLF leaders? Foreigners?
    On the other hand, we believe that Lencho has just been convinced that PM HD is not in control, the evidences he tried to list are not strong enough. Lencho, in fact, had a stronger evidence if he wants to mention. When he suddenly went to Finfinne last year he was informally instructed to leave the country (his country) as soon as possible and so deported. Lencho should have known that some hidden force that deported him, not PM HD, was in control. Lencho should have mentioned that most of the very important powers to control the economy, state security and intelligence, military etc were shortly taken from PM HD and are in the hands of TPLF officials.

  7. I have seen 7 stupid comments for nothing one of them make me loguh that traing to show us the pupet as prim minister puting a lipstik on a pig

  8. leccho leeetaa was happy when he was in power in 1991 and spear heading the ethnic cleansing of amhara and others from the so called oromia, which never existed before until Leccho letta with the help of tplf created it by lumping together different ethnic groups living in the region. leccho letta and his olf dogs are now barking that those other ethnic groups living in this ‘oromia land’ are there at the mercy of olf.

  9. Mr.Lencho Letta is staggering here and there as if he drank alcohol. The Oromo people should live beside the other ethnics; otherwise; they couldn’t give us even a bit of peace. We the Oromo people, who are majority in population; must hold the big sit in the parliament and lead the others. Since democracy exist in the community and if the neighbors accept the constitution by the whole; then, our people could live in peace as long as we hold the power. The modern or the civilized world are exercising or experiencing the federal system. Ours is ethnic federalism; like just India. We could learn more from India!!! From Russia!!! Our resources will never be spoiled or taken by any one. Because, we are the one who administrate the region. The so called, the previous who have no the identity should leave the post with out murmuring. The language, the background, the previous identities, the culture and even the religion could be significant witness to us. Federalism is our strength, unity is our confidence, democracy would be the motto. Gossiping or without theory word pouring on desk should be seen by outsiders as a mud thrown in any direction. Mr Letta may not know about how our people is marching for development. No obligations!!! no fight!!! It is peace!!! systematically, with a great willingness, and morale, our people is challenging the poverty. Eradicating poverty is our motto!! Letta is grounded somewhere!!! Get enough information!! The previous Tigray or Amhara are not on the same positions in our region. Ours is ours!!! Theirs is theirs too!!! Federalism is our principle!!! Letta!!! go and see our region before you chat with Aba Leffa!!!

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