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Ethiopia : Reflections on Expanding Ethiopia’s Democratic Space (Andreas Eshete and Samuel Assefa)

1 Background

Since imperial days, Ethiopians continually waged struggles to find release from authoritarian rule and a stifling public culture. Of late, in the wake of protracted public protests and a change in the leadership of EPRDF, there are signs, warmly and widely welcomed, of a turn to a more open and freer political space, among them: the release of imprisoned dissident journalists and leaders of the political opposition, a relaxation of restrictions on public expression, decriminalization of opposition parties, and a public commitment to honor human rights.

These steps, bold as they are, aim at rectifying glaring faults of the past. It is important to ascertain that they are also expressive of a standing aspiration to create an enduring democratic space of wider scope. Does the release of dissidents and the decriminalization of opposition parties demonstrate a full commitment to the rule of law, essential to the creation of a free and open democratic space?

To understand the importance of this question it would be useful to take a glance at change and continuity in Ethiopian political life. All who previously proclaimed change in Ethiopia set free dissidents and other prisoners deemed unjustly victimized by their predecessors. These acts, however, did not usher in a new dispensation where similar abuses became uncommon, much less unthinkable. It also helps to recall significant moments under EPRDF rule that may well have given rise to expectations of a new era of respect for the rule of law: the reasonably fair trial of senior members of the military regime, the flourishing press during the transition, the vigorous electoral contests of 2005.

What, then, is required by way of institutional design and public engagement to create a lasting public democratic space that is not hostage either to the magnanimity of public authorities or to transient passions of the populace?

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Eidtor’s Note : This article was released December 2018

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  1. To any well-meaning and well-informed Ethiopians,the jejune ideas of these two US Ivy League denizens about Ethiopia is unpalatable. Both Professor Andreas Eshete and Herr Doktor Samuel Assefa shamelessly went into bed with the late Meles Zenawi in 1991. One became the Head of AAU, and the other, US Ambassador. Both these gentlemen got their dream jobs in the too narrowly structured Tigryans’ government, while the rest of the population reduced to Third- Class citizens in their own country.
    I remember one episode vividly where Andreas standing with his hind legs became lyrical about “his” PM Meles to an American radio journalist. The bottom line is:can one trust these two ‘elite “shenanigans after they sold the nation down the drain to the predatory Weyane?The answer is categorically no. Even a friendly neighbor, Egypt can not adequately explain namby-pamby the political behavior of these intellectuals who past their sell-by date! Thank you, editor for giving me this splendid opportunity to ventilate what is uppermost in the minds and hearts of every progressive Ethiopian.

    With due consideration.

    • I didn’t get the memo attending ivy league schools is now frowned upon, or is it just good old jealousy at play here? Your comment is riddled with fallacies, mainly Ad hominem, so not worth any serious consideration. If you actually read the article & care about mama Ethiopia, moving forward, try to argue the merits of their claims like an ivy league elite.

  2. You must have been paid a lot for your puny effort! What “Mama Ethiopia” needs at this key juncture, not an Ivy League graduate, but someone with native intelligence and wisdom. People like you are mostly wrongheaded to respect more the Ivy League diploma holder rather than the thoughts and contents of one’s mind. A perfect case in point is the Superm Court Yale Law school graduate Afro-American Thomas in DC. I could go on but the whole point is one doesn’t have to worship the god-king of Ivy League more than absolutely necessary. Professor Eshetu Chole and Yohannes Sebatu didn’t go to prestigious universities, but both had no peers in the mid 1960s and early70’s They both died with unimpeachable integrity in tact. Now could you ask on behalf of ” Abboy Ethiopians” why higher education is benighted under Professor Andreas after he expelled more than 40 professors. One of whom was a foremost scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge. That is for now. I hope you need to grow up your 3-inch mind by not emulating the Ivy predator Ethiopian lady,by the name Dr. Elleni Zewde Gabra- Allan with whom you have a feminine affinity


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